Does your job put you into close contact with individuals you suspect suffer from mental health issues? Feel ill-equipped to properly support these people because you simply don't understand the challenges they're facing—or how best to intervene?
You are certainly not alone. Many community-serving professionals lack mental health training and awareness. They don't possess the knowledge or practical skills needed to recognize mental health problems, interact with individuals in crisis, or refer mentally ill people to the most appropriate health care services.
Lack of organized education in this area has led to a mental health crisis in Canada. One in three Canadians will have mental health problems at some point in their lives—which means every single one of us, either directly or indirectly, is impacted by the epidemic.
It's clear that we need stronger, widespread education and service initiatives at the government level, but grassroots training is also extremely important.
Community mental health courses are an excellent first step for professionals who work with and serve the public.
These are just three ways quality training can completely change the way you do (and feel about) your job.
1. Recognizing symptoms of common mental health conditions
There are so many assumptions, myths, and misinformation around mental health in our society—it can be very challenging for community-serving professionals to know when they're dealing with someone in difficulty.
In law enforcement, we often see counter-productive tactics and excessive force used against mentally ill individuals, simply because officers are not trained to recognize signs of poor mental health.
Statistics Canada reports that one out of every five confrontations between police and the public involves someone with a mental health disorder. That's a total of 940,000 interactions every year.
And in Canadian prisons, violent—often deadly—disputes between mentally ill inmates and prison guards are on the rise. Lack of mental health training is the clear culprit here.
In the education and community services sector, we often see young people mislabelled as "troublemakers" or "lazy," when in reality, they are suffering from depression, anxiety, or a combination of substance abuse and mental health issues.
According to the Mental Health Commission, an estimated 1.2 million children and youth in Canada are affected by mental illness—yet less than 20 percent will receive the treatment they need, because their symptoms go unnoticed and unreported at the community level.
Quality community mental health courses are the key to better understanding, diagnosing, and referring people with mental health issues to the best service and treatment options. Education is a crucial first step toward more compassionate and efficient services in front-line community professions.
2. Knowing how to intervene during a mental health crisis
Do you know what to do when someone is having a panic attack or psychotic episode? How would you approach a suicidal person?
Crisis intervention is one of the fundamental skills taught in mental health courses—and a truly life-saving competency for people who work in the community.
A comprehensive training program will include mental health first aid tactics and instruction on how to identify warning signs of an impending emergency—such as self-injury behaviour, social withdrawal, escalating anxiety, and destructive conduct.
Knowing how to respond in moments of crisis is a tremendous asset and confidence-booster for professionals who work on the front lines. With the right set of skills, you will be ready to step in and provide critical support to people in need, instead of resorting to force, using counter-productive techniques, or simply feeling helpless.
3. Recognizing your own biases & confronting the mental health stigma
One of the less tangible—but equally important—takeaways of community mental health training is an increased sensitivity to the stigma around mental health in our society. Course participants must face their own ingrained attitudes and biases toward mental illness, and reflect on how these beliefs impact their job performance.
Do you feel afraid around people with mental health conditions? Do you sometimes avoid certain individuals because you don't understand their behaviours and attitudes? Are you buying into mental health myths that have a negative influence on your interactions at work?
Effective community mental health courses will always include a rigorous process of self-reflection—and a recognition that mentally ill individuals are misunderstood, and often treated as inferior in our society.
By acknowledging the current limitations of our intervention and treatment services for mentally ill individuals, we can begin working toward improving those structures at the community level.
And it all starts with people who work on the front line—in social services, law enforcement, education, and health care.
ENHANCE YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF MENTAL HEALTH
Think you would benefit from community mental health training? Looking for a trustworthy program that will fit your busy schedule?
Explore the Community Mental Health Certificate offered by Kompass Professional Development. Training is delivered through a unique online learning system, which includes plenty of personal interactions with instructors and classmates.
Click below to browse a detailed list of courses included in the certificate, or chat live with a knowledgeable advisor. We're here to help!