“Holy crap! Did that guy just fall?” Standing in line in front of me at the concession stand of a minor league baseball game, an older man collapsed in front of me.
It was the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school and I was enjoying a night watching America’s favorite pastime. I, of course, had to get a cherry (the best flavor) ICEE between innings. I had a night off from my job as a certified nurses assistant at a nursing home and my summer sports practices, so I was going to indulge!
But in front of me, a man keeled over. Internally, I was freaked out, but I knew I had to do something. And then, my CPR training just took over. Those of us in line by him, got to him before the onsite paramedics, and began compressions. Thank goodness another man by us also had training in CPR and he and I took turns. Once paramedics arrived and transported him to the hospital, I went back to my seat. What they never tell you in CPR training is that if you ever have to actually use your training (and you’re not a healthcare professional), your adrenaline pumps so much that you can shake for awhile after. I shook so much I couldn’t even hold my dang ICEE! Driving home that day, as I thought about that man and my reaction, I vowed to myself that I would always renew my CPR certification whether I worked in healthcare or not. I could not even imagine how I would have felt if I had not been trained and that whole scenario played out. Would I have just stood there, helpless?
That was a physical crisis. Now what about a mental health crisis? 1 in 5 adults in the US will experience a mental illness. It doesn’t take much imagination to think of a group of 5 people in your life, and realize that that 1 of those people will be or could be living with a mental illness…or it could be you. What would you do if that person reached out to you for help? Would you know what to do? If you were trained as a Mental Health First Aider, you would recall the acronym ALGEE and recognize what you need to do to get that person help. No, I’m not talking about the slimy green crap floating on the lake! ALGEE not ALGAE. Much like CPR, ALGEE is an acronym for steps a layperson can take to help someone in a mental health crisis. Mental Health First Aid teaches these steps to anyone who wants to learn. I became an instructor for Youth and Adult MHFA in 2019.
Visit https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/ to learn about Mental Health First Aid or to sign up for a class.
*All stats found at NAMI.org, 2020