British Columbia

Mental health first aid kit for non-professionals

A mental health first aid kit gives people the tools necessary to help someone during a mental health crisis. The 12-hour program teaches people what to do before professional help arrives, similar to safety courses like CPR.

12-hour program teaches people what to do before professional help arrives

Betty Kitchener came up with the program 15 years ago. She struggled with depression as a teenager and realized that her parents, teachers and those around her did not know how to properly interact with her. (Charlie Cho/CBC)

It's a first aid safety course similar to learning how to give CPR, but Betty Kitchener's program is designed to help someone going through a mental health crisis.

Kitchener, a registered nurse and mental health counsellor, created the program 15 years ago in Australia. On Thursday, she is speaking with mental health leaders at the Mental Health First Aid International Summit in Vancouver about why the 12-hour program is really for everyone.

"Most people understand the need for first aid and how to give first aid before getting professional help."

"Mental health problems are really, really common. There is a lot of stigma out there about it and there is evidence that if you nip it in the bud and get at it early, it can prevent people from getting into something much more severe," explained Kitchener.

Like other first aid training, it also comes with an action plan. Kitchener refers to the program's key pillars as ALGEE.

Approach, assess and assist with any crisis

Listen non-judgmentally

Give support and information

Encourage appropriate professional help

Encourage other supports

Kitchener says approaching someone during a crisis without a stigmatizing attitude is essential so the individual feels comfortable enough to open up and seek help.

"You cannot just walk up to someone and say, gee look, I think you should go see the doctor, I think you have a mental health problem," she said.

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled Mental health first aid discussed in Vancouver with the CBC's Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.


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