mental health first aid

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The need for Mental Health First Aid


First aid for common physical problems is well established. Preventive measures have been used by people from all walks of life, and are commonly applied to physical problems. Simplified approaches for emergency situations such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) have been developed, taught, and applied, saving millions of lives.


Despite the frequency of emotional problems, rapid technological advances, and expansion of psychiatric knowledge, there are currently no simplified approaches to mental illness. The concept of first aid to mental illness is not usually applied. Most existing techniques and approaches are used to teach and guide physicians, therapists and counselors.


Moreover, the psychiatric literature is too complicated for most people and does not provide mentally ill individuals and their caregivers with the necessary tools to manage mental conditions during the initial stages of illness, and to guide them during its crucial stages.


More often than not, emotional changes are overlooked. It is not uncommon for symptomatic individuals to get worse, to reach a point of no return — gradually becoming dysfunctional, increasingly unable to perform routine recreational and work activities, and having difficulty in sustaining good relationships with their loved ones.


What Mental Health First Aid can offer?


In a sense, Mental Health First Aid should not be a foreign concept to most people. Many individuals, who have come to my clinic with previous emotional symptoms, have told me that at some point in their lives they got over an emotional hump through effective use of various coping mechanisms, without the benefit of medication or a visit to a mental health professional. Unknowingly, they had successfully helped themselves through emotional first aid.


The CARE Approach as first aid for mental health attempts to simplify complex approaches to common mental or emotional illnesses. It provides basic steps to help individuals and their caregivers recognize the presence of emotional difficulty by identifying signs and symptoms. Moreover, this approach teaches individuals and their relatives what to anticipate if the initial symptoms are allowed to persist and to worsen, and appropriate intervention is not provided.


In summary, the CARE Approach provides basic approaches for early remedy and intervention. If successfully applied, it may prevent mental problems from worsening. Rather than advocate a specific type of psychotherapy or espouse theories of psychology, it instead addresses the immediate mental problem by using simple techniques.



Source of CARE Approach:


First Aid to Mental Illness By Michael G. Rayel, MD

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