One of the first crisis calls that Officer Joe Moseng responded to—after taking a Mental Health First Aid class—was a young woman standing on the ledge of a bridge.
A member of the City of Eagan Police Department, Officer Moseng says his mental health training prepared him for the situation. “I identified myself with just my first name, Joe, and said I was here to help her,” says Officer Moseng. “I was very fortunate that those words got her to turn back around and look at me. When she looked at me, I grabbed on to her and pulled her back over.”
Mental Health First Aid is an internationally recognized evidence-based program managed by the National Council for Behavioral Health. “The eight-hour class helps provide tools and training to aid participants in identifying, understanding and responding to signs of mental illnesses and substance-use disorders,” says Tiffany Utke, Fairview community health outreach assistant manager.
Class participants learn about risk factors and warning signs, strategies to help someone in crisis and non-crisis situations, community resources, non-judgmental communication, listening skills and a five-step action plan to assist someone developing the signs and symptoms of a mental illness. Role-playing, group discussions, and exercises allow participants to practice the skills they learn.
“The class was structured by people in the mental health profession and the workshop provides their insights on how we can better interact with people with mental illness,” explains Officer Moseng. “This class really offered a new perspective and gave some additional tools in dealing with people that are going through mental health crises. If I would have got there [to the bridge] prior to taking the class, the outcome might have been very different.”
Mental illnesses are common—affecting one in five adults in any given year. “Mental health continues to be a common area of need in the communities we serve,” says Tiffany. “The more people we can train to identify and help in mental health situations, the more individuals we can help.”
The course is recommended for individuals—from primary care workers and social workers to faith community members and parents—who want to learn how to provide initial help to someone who may be experiencing the symptoms of mental illness or who may be in crisis. Anyone can learn the signs, become prepared and help.
In 2016, more than 550 community members attended 28 Mental Health First Aid classes offered by Fairview—a 65 percent increase from the previous year. More than 210 hours of training were taught by 21 instructors. “We are making a tremendous impact in the community, but there is always more to do,” says Tiffany.
If you are interested, you may register for a mental health first aid class.
This program is funded in part by Fairview Foundation -- Help support these invaluable classes