Caroline Budhan, a naturopathic medicine student based in Seattle, Washington, took the MHFA training on the same day I did, and I caught up with her afterward to get her perspective. We chat a bit about how the program teaches people to recognize signs and symptoms of substance abuse and mental illness, as well as the need to overcome rampant stigma. “I think mental health, in general, in America — there’s such a stigma. There’s something wrong with you if you’re anxious or depressed. You should always be like on 10, right? So the course normalized things for me. It made me feel more open to talking about these conditions,” she tells me.
Budhan also recalls two situations she experienced recently where having MHFA training could have been beneficial. The first involved someone close to her who was having acute mental stress; during this time, she realized that she should be prepared to help and be able to ask questions like, “Are you considering suicide?” (which we are encouraged to practice asking during the course). The second instance was when she was experiencing some issues in her personal life that affected her work performance. She believes her colleagues weren’t equipped to see the signs and symptoms we discussed in MHFA, so they assumed she was just bad at her job, rather than that she was dealing with her own mental health issues.
“If my teammates had that particular training, maybe they would have been like, ‘Okay, this person has consistently done stellar work for six years. In the last six, seven months, they’ve been faltering on rudimentary things, like as easy as scheduling an appointment. What’s wrong? What’s going on? Let me pull her aside and check in,'” she says. Both of these examples highlight the importance of this type of training, and how both Budhan and I will use our new skills in the future. Especially as we move toward the end of the pandemic (knock on wood) and whatever a new normal will look like, people will likely be interacting with each other in public again more and more, and having the tools taught by MHFA could be incredibly valuable.
Perhaps that’s why Stone is particularly passionate about bringing this offering to college students, who are going through a pandemic during a major milestone time in their lives, and need the tools to deal with their own mental health and to help each other. “We think about just equipping those students with the ability to have conversations amongst their peers, at a time in their lives where mental health struggles and challenges present themselves, and we’re just really excited to be able to offer that opportunity,” she explains.
While the Bioré Get That Sh*t Out campaign will be rolling out to colleges across the U.S. and targeting college students, EL-Amin makes it clear that the training is for “anybody with a pulse.” She continues, “I say that in jest, but the reason why everyone needs Mental Health First Aid really has to do with the fact that we’re all human beings and we all have this need for connection.” You can register here from now until June 15, and courses begin in the fall when the school season starts back up again.
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