LOGAN – A national curriculum is hoping to make mental health first aid certification just as popular, and just as requested, like first aid and CPR certifications.
“It’s the same type of principal as being certified in CPR or physical first aid,” said The Family Place’s Mental Health First Aid Director Curtis Snelgrove. “We learn how to help an individual having a mental health crisis until a person with official training can come to take over, or until the crisis passes.”
The Family Place received a grant to offer this program almost a year ago and has been offering free classes and certifications since the beginning of 2019. The certification takes place over an 8-hour day and is valid for three years. Snelgrove said anyone would benefit from taking a mental health first aid course because everyone will regularly interact with people who have a mental illness.
“One in five individuals have a diagnosed mental illness. It’s your neighbor, your parent, your child, your sibling, your best friend,” he explained. “It’s going to be someone you know. And it’s empowering to know you can help them in a moment of crisis until they can get professional help (if needed).”
The Family Place is getting ready to roll out a youth-specific certification for those adults who deal with or interact with youth. Snelgrove said the things he has learned about how to be an advocate for youth is powerful and mentioned it’s always easier said than done.
“Even as a parent myself, I feel like deep down I knew these principles, but then when I got the training the rubber hit the road and brought it more into the light,” he said.
One main thing Snelgrove reminds parents and others involved in youths’ lives is to be willing to listen and not jump to conclusions.
“What our youth need is to know they can talk to us about difficult things. Make sure those lines of communication are open so they can turn to us to talk as parents or leaders because they’re going through some really hard times,” he said.
Snelgrove said that a line of communication can open easier when the dialog is headed in the right direction. He recommends listening to them while they talk, without trying to answer their question or solve their problem.
“We try to fix, and they aren’t done explaining. Youth just want us to listen. Make sure the focus is on them,” he said.
An example of positive dialog would be, “I remember when I was your age going through similar things and that was hard for me but tell me how you’re feeling and how it’s impacting you.”
Snelgrove said that kind of connection keeps the focus on the youth and helps them feel safe enough to share. He also said actions that sound so simple really do make a big difference when connecting with youth. Examples include going to get ice cream, family dinner, or playing basketball.
“When I took the class for the first time, I remember thinking: be comfortable talking about what’s uncomfortable,” he added.
The Family Place encourages every member of the community who interacts with youth on a regular basis to become mental health first aid certified. The program was offered to Cache County School District employees earlier this year and the two classes filled up overnight.
“Teachers, coaches, these are adults in these youths’ lives that have that connection and bond with them. It’s having these types of skills to be able to help those youth in times of need, being able to know what to look for so they can start conversations that will keep them safe and bring hope for a recovery of what they’re experiencing. It can keep these kids alive,” Snelgrove said.
Even though Snelgrove is certified in both CPR and physical first aid, he said he uses the skills and tools he learned from his mental health first aid certification on average 2-3 times a week.
“I’ve never needed to utilize the skills to provide CPR, and I’ve used first aid skills as a parent, but it’s nowhere near the frequency of my mental health first aid training,” he explained.
Snelgrove explained this isn’t a form of technical training that leaves those certified licensed to treat or diagnose someone. “Just like we could help a hiker who cut their leg by applying pressure and making sure they stay hydrated, but we wouldn’t be the ones stitching them back together. We just assist in the crisis until the professional help can arrive.”
The grant allows the Family Place to serve Cache, Rich, and Franklin counties and Snelgrove said the response has been great in the communities they serve.
“Those community members who say they have someone in their life they’ve wanted to help in the right way…this class has been a great opportunity for them to feel less frightened in that moment of need,” he said.
The Family Place is offering their next adult certification class on August 10 at their Logan location from 9-5 p.m. The value of the course is $170 but, because of the grant they received, they’re able to offer it to the public for free. The first youth-focused class for adults will be announced on their website. The Family Place can also set up classes for groups. Attendees must be 18 years or older and the class must have at least five participants and no more than 30. Those interested in booking a class can visit FamilyPlaceUtah.org.