A group of mental aid first aiders undertake the two-day course. A total of 60 people have qualified from the course since its inception last year.

Sixty people have trained in mental health first aid in ongoing two-day courses run by the Health Services Authority.

The training course qualifies the individuals as mental health first aiders and equips them with the knowledge and confidence necessary to recognize crucial warning signs and symptoms of mental illness, according to the HSA.

Dr. Arline McGill of the HSA’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Health, said in a press release that her department, in collaboration with Major Ricardo Henry of the Cayman Islands Cadet Corps, had held three training sessions since introducing the program to the Cayman Islands in October 2017, during Mental Health Week.

“We hope that this program will encourage people to talk more freely about mental health, reduce stigma and create a more positive culture within organizations and the community,” she said.

Laura Young, who took one of the courses and is now qualified as a mental health first aider, said, “We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. And similar to physical illness, mental illness can strike at any time and can affect people from all walks of life.

“This course has taught me so much, including how to tackle stigma in the world around me constructively. It has enabled me to have a more comprehensive understanding of mental health and offer better support to those experiencing mental illness.”

The ongoing training is open to anyone with an interest in mental and behavioral health and well-being. There is a limit of 20 people per course, because of the highly interactive and thorough nature of the program.

Through a mix of group activities, presentations and discussions, each session is built around a Mental Health First Aid action plan, enabling the participants to have confidence as they intervene in various situations, according to the press release.

Those who complete the course get a Mental Health First Aid manual to keep and refer to whenever they need it, and an internationally recognized certificate acknowledging them as a mental health first aider.

The Health Services Authority points out that the training does not qualify someone to be a therapy provider. Similar to learning physical first aid, it prepares people to intervene in mental crises and guide the person experiencing the crisis to help, as well as support them during their recovery.

For more information, contact the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Health at the Health Services Authority on 244-2650.

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