Harford Magazine - Page 12 - Mental health CPR

Harford Magazine
- Page 12
Mental health CPR

Program trains the public, first responders to support those in crisis


By Kathi Santora
For Harford Magazine
Photos By Kenneth K. Lam


Many of us brush up on first aid and CPR skills, but there are times when we may encounter someone who is in mental, not physical, distress.


Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), a free eight-hour course regularly offered at several Harford County locations, trains the public and first responders to support someone who is having symptoms related to mental illness, substance abuse, crisis or trauma.


“Very simply, it’s mental health CPR,” says Lt. Marc Junkerman of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office is part of a collaboration of local government, nonprofit and advocacy agencies that coordinate MHFA training.


It’s not designed to make anyone a clinician or take the place of clinical support,” he adds. “It is a layman’s approach to being a concerned citizen or a trained first responder, to help someone who is having a behavioral health crisis.”


MHFA teaches participants how to first recognize someone who may be experiencing acute signs of depression, anxiety, psychosis, substance abuse or suicidal thoughts.


“The course helps you identify what is happening and step in to help that person get professional help and stay safe,” says Shawn Dundon, who works for the Harford County Office on Mental Health and oversees MHFA training sessions.


Dundon adds that Harford’s MHFA is part of a countrywide project overseen by the National Council on Behavioral Health. Participants learn a five-step action plan that begins with assessing for suicide risk and


Mental Health First Aid Training
mentalhealthfirstaid.org | healthyharford.org | harfordmentalhealth.org