Mental Health First Aid course training Wayne State community to help others in crisis

Two million people worldwide have been trained in Mental Health First Aid, and it’s a growing movement, says local instructor Seth Allard.

May is mental health awareness month. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that one in five adults lives with a mental health illness.

Seth Allard is a Wayne State social work doctoral student. He is a Mental Health First Aid instructor who recently held workshops for the Wayne State University community.

“It’s really common to have these gatekeeper trainings in organizations. And in communities, they’re primarily designed for the lay community, but clinicians and health professionals definitely benefit from them,” he said.

Allard says the training helps people gain the confidence and knowledge to help people going through mental health crises to connect them with resources.

“One of the things about having a common sense, applicable idea of how to be helpful is, that it gives people confidence. And oftentimes, that’s what people need,” he said. “There are a lot of people out there who are already empathetic listeners who are critical thinkers who are really good friends, and who are really good communicators.”

Allard said he was inspired to do mental health work by watching his mother as a kid. She was a nurse who worked with people with disabilities.

“The idea that you would stigmatize individuals because of mental illness or a mental health challenge was kind of… I was dissuaded from that because I got to see my mother and worked with people,” he said.

Seth Allard teaches a Mental Health First Aid course. He offered a few free workshops for the Wayne State University community since March. Photo Source: Seth Allard

Allard is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. xtHe’s also a Marine Corps veteran. He says another reason he works in mental health is due to the increase in suicides in the veteran population post-9/11.

“When you are a part of a generation that is impacted by different effects towards your mental health, and you are curious about it, you start to get sort of pulled in like you want another rest of the story,” Allard said.

Previously Allard worked in suicide prevention. He brings all his experiences together for this course.

Allard says part of caring for those in our community includes being mindful of word choices that further stigmatize people suffering from mental health.

“It takes some courage, it takes some curiosity, it takes some humility, to understand the impact and power of our words, and how that can further impact things like policy and politics and health care.”

The first aid class is a day-long training using the 5-step ALGEE protocol to assess, listen non-judgmentally, give reassurance, and encourage professional help and self-help (self-care) strategies.

Allard says the course differentiates that first aiders help connect people to resources, while mental health professionals diagnose and treat those suffering.

He says until there’s the availability of quality mental health care, people will need training for mental health crises. Allard says people often want to help others, but hesitate when it comes to mental health.

“They hear about the topics of mental health or suicide prevention or trauma, and they go, ‘I don’t know if I’m able to handle that. I’m not a mental health professional.’ You know, you don’t have to be a mental health professional to be of assistance and have and to aid people in your community,” he said.

Two million people worldwide have been trained in Mental Health First Aid, and it’s a growing movement, Allard says. He will be teaching a first aid class for military personnel and veterans later this summer.

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  • Nargis Rahman
    Nargis Hakim Rahman is the Civic Reporter at 101.9 WDET. Rahman graduated from Wayne State University, where she was a part of the Journalism Institute of Media Diversity.