Just as you do first aid for physical wounds, you can do first aid for mental health issues too
If you cut your finger, what do you do? You wash the finger with water, apply an antiseptic lotion on the cut, and close it with a band-aid to avoid infection. This is the first aid for the body. Similarly, there is first aid available for the mind too. Mental health first aid is a process to detect possible mental illness in a person. It involves identifying emotional and behavioural issues and getting the person to seek professional help if the need arises. The earlier the intervention, the higher chances of a person recovering from their illness.
Who needs mental health first aid?
Mental health first aid is for someone who is experiencing emotional distress and needs help. Several situations can bring in emotional highs and lows. For a child it may be moving into a new school; for an adult, it may be going through a break-up, or migrating to a new city for work, the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, to name a few. The sudden, unexpected change can cause emotional upheaval in the person and may manifest into mental illness if not detected early. Therefore, the person must receive help to safeguard them from harm.
Note: Mental health first aid does not involve the diagnosis of any mental illness or providing crisis management for the person, or counselling and therapy.
Also Read: Internet Cannot Diagnose Your Mental Illness
How do you know if a person needs mental health first aid?
People who undergo severe mental and emotional distress exhibit specific thoughts, behaviours, and emotions, which may help you identify their distress. They are:
- Tearing up easily
- Being worried and anxious
- Being aggressive and irritated
- Social withdrawal
- Refusal to go to school/college/workplace
Sometimes, the person may require the help of a mental health professional, but often they are looking for an empathetic conversation and support from another person.
Also Read: Know The Importance Of Child Counselling
How can you administer mental health first aid?
When you see a loved one going through emotional turmoil, you can approach them and have an empathetic, non-judgmental, confidential conversation.
Here how you can do it:
- Do not blame them for their thoughts (for example, suicidal feelings)
- Try to validate their feelings
- Do not try to give solutions, help the person look for solutions
- Find out if they have any support system
- Don't push people to discuss their issues with you. Respect boundaries
- If you believe that the person is having thoughts of suicide, or is experiencing debilitating emotional or behavioural issues such as addiction, refer them to a mental health professional.
With inputs from Dr KS Meena, Assistant Professor, Department Of Mental Health Education
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