The theme of today's World Mental Health Day 2016 (10th October) is one which many people may not have any familiarity with. This year's focus is 'Dignity in Mental Health - Psychological and Mental Health First Aid for All'.
Almost everyone knows about physical First Aid. It's called into action when someone faints or has a nosebleed. Those who are first on the scene to a car crash can use first aid to help the injured. These are all instances where the problem is obvious and drastic action can be taken to prevent an injury becoming something more serious.
This early intervention and prevention are precisely the reasons why so much emphasis is placed on training people in first aid. Just in case they ever need to use it - quite possibly to save someone's life.
Disparity in first aid
There is, however, a disparity that exists between psychological/mental health first aid and physical first aid. You, whomever you might be reading this, could be a prime example of this disparity. You've probably heard of first aid for physical maladies. But do you know anything about first aid for psychological and mental health issues?
Mental health can pose problems which are, rather dangerously, invisible to the naked eye. One can't see the inner workings of the brain. And if one were able to, there still probably wouldn't be any sign that something might be amiss, unlike the obvious signs available when dealing with a swollen arm or bleeding nose.
Yet in a similar way to instances that call for physical first aid, a person can experience profound damage to their mental health all at once. And in these sudden occurrences people are in need of urgent assistance to prevent their mental health deteriorating in the long and short term. Such instances call for psychological and mental health first aid.
Situations calling for mental health first aid
Perhaps someone with a pre-existing condition such as anxiety or depression suddenly finds his or her mental health deteriorating. If you witnessed that happening first hand, what would you do? Could you do anything?
Moreover, think about terrorist attacks or violent incidents such as muggings or attacks involving a family member or loved one. These kinds of crisis events, traumatic experiences or sudden loses affect communities across the world.
Victims are often those who were subjected to the incident or witnessed it first hand. And although there sometimes isn't any need for physical first aid, the situation could call for immediate psychological first aid.
If people aren't adequately trained to deliver such critical care and support like they are when it comes to physical first aid, victims and sufferers may have to endure negative affects that could otherwise have been avoided. As a result their psychological and mental health could be seriously affected in the short and long term, with the possibility of life-changing mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, arising.
More than just awareness
This world mental health day, the WFMH is actively raising awareness of psychological and mental health first aid.
Beyond the obvious fact that this kind of emphasis will help save the mental health of many people as well as helping these same people maintain their dignity in tough situations, it will also work in other ways.
Physical first aid forms the basis of a humane response to devastating and sometimes life-threating situations. Some might even say it is a basic need in the developed world. Having people willing and able to take action to prevent further harm coming to an injured person spreads unity and caring across communities, as these situations often bring strangers together in the face of suffering.
If we had a similar attitude to psychological and mental health first aid, whereby certain members of communities are equipped to deal with a sudden, negative impact on mental health, we'd go a long distance in helping people realise that these invisible injuries should be dealt with in a similar way to physical health.
With the focus on psychological and mental health first aid this World Mental Health Day, the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) are attempting to bring mental health in line with the esteem we hold for physical first aid. And with that will come a greater acceptance of mental health problems in general and a reduction in stigma. There is no doubt that this would lead to less suffering in the future, because people would be more willing to discuss their own issues - and talking about mental health is the first step to improving it.
Two approaches, one goal
Psychological and Mental Health First aid are two different approaches to a similar subject and outcome, which is to ease suffering and build a foundation for future professional psychological care and support. See the infographic below.
Further information about the World Health Organisation's Psychological First Aid guide can be found here.
And additional details of ALGEE and ways to improve your knowledge and understanding of Mental Health First Aid can be found here.
On this world mental health day 2016, as a mental health service provider, we feel it is our duty at Deepdene Care to help spread the word and encourage people in developing their own understanding of Psychological and Mental Health First Aid.
Without awareness, there is lack of knowledge, and without that kind of know-how people could find themselves in a situation in which they aren't able to help as well as perhaps they could have done.
Think about the recovery position. It's something most people know and has led countless people to respond accordingly in critical situations.
So we are urging people to learn mental health's 'recovery position', so to speak. Get clued up and in the future you might help save someone's dignity and their mental health.