State getting more mental health first aid trainers

Thirty people will receive training next week to become instructors in mental health first aid, a program that helps participants learn to recognize signs of mental disorders and help others get professional help.

Those instructors will then offer mental health first aid training in communities across the state to people who have regular contact with the public, such as school personnel, social service providers and retail workers.

The training, offered at the Institute of Living in conjunction with the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Hartford Healthcare Behavioral Health Network, stems from the legislation passed earlier this year in response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. That measure called for the state’s mental health and education commissioners to administer a mental health first aid training program, and for people serving as safe school climate coordinators to receive the training.

The law also allows boards of education to require teachers, school nurses, counselors and other school employees to participate in mental health first aid training.

“Making mental health training more easily accessible will prepare primary care professionals, families, school personnel and educators to identify and understand students in crisis, improve early intervention when students are displaying disturbing or threatening behavior in schools and ensure these young people receive  the treatment they require,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement.

Malloy said the commission he appointed to develop a response to the Sandy Hook shooting is also looking at other ways to remove stigma from seeking mental health treatment and improving access to services.

Mental health first aid training has been likened to CPR training: Participants won’t learn how to treat a condition, but they could be able to assist someone while help is on the way, or detect signs that suggest a person needs help.

To read more about mental health first aid, click here.