Workshop shows how to help
By Pamela Cowan, Regina Leader-Post (October 2, 2015). Retrieved from: http://www.leaderpost.com/health/mental+health+first+change+lives/11407592/story.html
If a friend or co-worker was physically ill, would you help? Most of us would. But if someone is depressed or anxious, people tend to walk away, said Donna Bowyer, director of Friends for Life, a suicide prevention program offered by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
Often, that's because we don't know what to do or we worry we will make it worse.
"We don't hesitate to get first aid for physical health issues, but we're probably more likely to come across somebody who is having a mental health problem," Bowyer said. "We need to have that knowledge to know what to do as a first responder."
To that end, Bowyer is teaching a Mental Health First Aid workshop in Regina on Oct. 15 and 16. "You're not going to learn to be a counsellor or therapist, it's just learning how to help this person - maybe connect them to services, maybe just listen to their story - 'What am I going to do to make it better?' " Bowyer said.
Just as first aid is administered to an injured person before medical treatment can be obtained, workshop participants will learn appropriate mental health first aid they can provide until treatment is found or the crisis is resolved.
The two-day sessions will focus on mental health and addictions, mood disorders - including bipolar and suicide - anxiety disorder and psychosis including schizophrenia.
Learning to identify the signs and symptoms of mental distress is the first step.
"Somebody who is struggling with depression is not really focused on the present ... They're not paying attention to what's happening around them," Bowyer said. "Somebody who is struggling with anxiety may be really hypervigilant about what's happening around them. Their eyes may be moving quickly from here to there and you can tell they're really hypervigilant. Either one is someone who is really struggling right now."
Sometimes it's helpful to just stop by a co-worker's office or call them and ask how they're doing.
"We tend to be such a culture of busyness that we don't take the time to do those things ... Sometimes, they just need somebody else to talk to," Bowyer said.
According to the latest figures from Statistics Canada, 3,728 Canadians took their lives in 2011 - 137 in Saskatchewan. Of the suicides in Saskatchewan, 104 were males, 33 were females.
Generally, between 75 and 79 per cent of people who die by their own hand are males, Bowyer said.
"That's pretty standard across Canada and it's standard in our Saskatchewan stats," she said.
Those in the 39-to 55-year-old age group are most likely to kill themselves, Bowyer said.
"Around 45 per cent are in that age group and it doesn't matter if you look at males or females," she said. "Those are people in the workforce, those are people who have children, those are people who are connected to the community."
Suicides don't just affect family and friends, but the workplace, schools the children attend and the community.
"There's such a ripple effect there," Bowyer said. "If we had more people trained with mental health first aid to be able to be that first responder, to be that ear that listens, to reach out to that person so they don't feel alone, that would make a really big impact in our community."
Open to the public, the mental health first aid workshop will be held at Mosaic Tower, 2010 12th Ave. The cost to attend is $160. To register, call the CMHA at 306-525-5601 or 1-800-461-5483.
"One in five people will have a mental health problem this year," Bowyer said. "If you know more than five people, you're probably going to come across somebody that could use a little bit of help."
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