By The Tri-Cities Now
Posted Sept 19, 2014 at 12:00am

Research shows that at some point in their lives, mental health problems affect one in three Canadians.

So the chances are good that each of us knows someone with a mental health problem such as a substance related disorder, depression, anxiety, or a psychotic disorder.

While thousands of people across the country know how to provide First Aid to someone with a physical injury, a lot fewer people are able to recognize the signs of someone needing mental health first aid.

According to a press release, that phenomenon is changing thanks to the Mental Health First Aid training program for the general public, being offered coast-to-coast by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Canada, a program of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

The MHFA program, developed by Dr. Anthony Jorm and Betty Kitchener at the University of Melbourne in Australia, is an evidenced based program that has spread to several countries throughout the world including Scotland, England, Hong Kong, Finland, Singapore, and the U.S.

“Mental health first aid is help for a person experiencing a mental health problem or a mental health crisis. Just like physical first aid, the goal is to offer a person immediate assistance until they can receive appropriate professional treatment or until the crisis is over,” says Donna Bonertz, employment and rehabilitation coordinator with the New View Society, in a press release.

The local non-profit agency has provided mental health services in the Tri-Cities area for more 40 years.

The next MHFA Canada Training course offered at the New View Society will be on Oct. 2 and 3. Those interested can register by calling Donna at 604-941-3222 ext 110 or by e-mailing dbonertz@newviewsociety. ca MHFA Canada is an interactive course for anyone and no previous mental health experience is necessary.

It can benefit teachers, health-care professionals, emergency service workers, human resource professionals, employers, managers and supervisors, community groups and the public.

The 12-hour course provides general information about what is meant by mental health problems and illnesses, how to identify signs of mental health problems in yourself and others, effective interventions and treatments and how to support an individual and help them find out about and access the professional help they may need.

It also dispels common myths surrounding mental health problems and reduces the stigma around mental illness, since estimates suggest that more than half of the people with a mental health problem will never seek treatment.

“The course doesn’t train people to diagnose mental illness or be a therapist or counselor,” says Bonertz.

“It provides the first aider with actions to guide a person in need to appropriate professional help when a problem first arises. We know the sooner a person with a mental health problem gets help, the better their chances of recovery.

“More information about mental health first aid and dates and locations of upcoming courses across Canada can be found at