Washington, DC, Oct. 5, 2011 — If your friend, co-worker or family member was suffering from an anxiety disorder, would you recognize the signs? Would you know how to help?
With October 2-8 being Mental Illness Awareness Week, Mental Health First Aid USA is encouraging people to learn the symptoms of anxiety disorders. Affecting more than 18 percent of U.S. adults (55 million people), it’s the most common mental disorder.
“Everyone experiences anxiety at some time, but being able to recognize an anxiety disorder early on could have a huge impact on someone’s life,” says Linda Rosenberg, the President and CEO of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, one of the three national entities that runs the Mental Health First Aid program. “If not treated, people with anxiety disorders are more likely to have negative outcomes later in life, including depression, alcohol and drug dependence and even suicide.”
While there are different types of anxiety disorders, the main ones are phobic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder.
Rosenberg says the best way to learn about anxiety disorders and other mental health problems is by enrolling in a Mental Health First Aid course. Introduced in the U.S. in 2008, Mental Health First Aid teaches people how to help someone with the signs and symptoms of mental illness or in a mental health crisis.
Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based program, which uses role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to assess a mental health crisis, select interventions and provide initial help. The training also addresses the risk factors and warning signs of specific illnesses like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and substance use disorders.
The training teaches people a five-step action plan to help someone with an anxiety disorder. To help remember the steps, course participants learn a mnemonic, A-L-G-E-E:
A: Assess for risk of suicide or harm.
L: Listen nonjudgmentally.
G: Give reassurance and information.
E: Encourage appropriate professional help.
E: Encourage self-help and other support strategies.
To date, more than 30,000 people have been trained through a network of 1,400 certified instructors across the country.
“A key part of the curriculum is teaching people where they can get help and how to access resources in their communities,” concludes Rosenberg. “If the person refuses to seek professional help, the training suggests self-help strategies.”
For more information about Mental Health First Aid and for a list of courses being offered nationwide in October, go to www.MentalHealthFirstAid.org.
Mental Health First Aid is the initial help given to a person showing symptoms of mental illness or in a mental health crisis until appropriate professional, peer or family support can be engaged. Mental Health First Aid USA is disseminated by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health. To find a training program in your community or learn how you can certify as an instructor, visit www.MentalHealthFirstAid.org.