Blog - October 19, 2020

Mental Health First Aid

Sara Boulton, Administrative Assistant

As part of our ongoing support of Canadian Mental Health Association, we sponsored a Mental Health First Aid training session in Powell River. Our own Sara Boulton took the training and we asked her to share her experience with us. Please note that we are not offering mental health advice, these are Sara’s impressions of the experience of attending training. If you are in crisis Please call 1-833-456-4566 toll free (In QC: 1-866-277-3553), 24/7 or visit

I am incredibly grateful that I was given the opportunity to take the Mental Health First Aid Course. Mental health, especially during this pandemic, has been something we’ve all become more aware of. I wanted to learn how I could be of assistance or support to members of my family, community and workplace should anyone experience a mental health crisis.

During the training we reviewed different types of mood related disorders, substance related disorders, anxiety and trauma related disorders, psychotic disorders, and how to identify if someone is living with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, depression and anxiety. If you have family member, friend, or colleague who is facing a mental health crisis or worsening of mental health, you can recognize it and determine the best way to approach it. Something people find hard to discuss is death by suicide, but MHFA training helps people to find ways of broaching that subject with someone if they feel they are at risk of harm. The instructor also spoke briefly on what to do if an individual overdoses, and the importance of Naloxone training.

Like any first aid, the aims are to preserve life, prevent deterioration of injury or illness, promote healing and provide comfort to the ill or injured. The Mental Health First Aid Course helps you recognize what is happening, assess the situation, and deal with it appropriately. It gives you the tools to recognize and react accordingly, in a way that is safe for all.

There are five basic actions to undertake if you’re called upon to use MHFA skills:

  1. Assess risk of suicide and or harm
  2. Listen non-judgementally
  3. Give reassurance and information
  4. Encourage the person to get appropriate professional help
  5. Encourage other supports.

We also reviewed the language we use around mental health. For example, when speaking about an individual living with bipolar disorder, instead of saying “Someone is bipolar” A more appropriate way to say this is, “Someone is living with bipolar disorder” as they are not defined by their disorder. When speaking about someone who has died by suicide, one should say “died by suicide” or “suicide death” rather than commit, as saying commit conveys shame and wrongdoing and implies that the person who died was a perpetrator rather than a victim, and only adds to the stigmatization of mental health. Additional ways to try to reduce stigma are to try to limit use of words like “crazy” “loony” or “deranged” in the regular course of conversation.

I learned a lot from this course and recommend it to anyone thinking about taking it. It’s valuable information that may allow you to really help someone one day, and perhaps more importantly, if more people attend a MHFA training session it will help raise awareness and eliminate the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues.

While I’m certainly not an expert, I do feel I’m better prepared to offer support if needed, and to help the individual in crisis find the resources they need. The Canadian Mental Health Association is hoping to be able to offer these courses online in the coming months. If you’re interested in learning more, please visit your local CMHA’s website.

CMHA North & West Vancouver (including Powell River, BC)

CMHA Kootenays (including Nelson, BC)

CMHA Colchester East Hants (Central Nova Scotia)

CMHA Halton Region (including Burlington, ON)

Note: In crisis? Please call 1-833-456-4566 toll-free (In QC: 1-866-277-3553), 24/7 or visit

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