President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health wrote that increased awareness about mental illness among staff members at a prison helped de-escalate crisis situations. She explained that the staff are “more aware of a situation before it presents itself. And, of course, having the training gives them understanding of the basic steps of trying to calm the inmate down, assessing their needs and asking if they’re suicidal.”
She is referring to Mental Health First Aid, a new national program teaching people how to manage mental health crises. First Aid is a common training for many. Almost any office or public area, including retail shops, have a first aid kit. Rubbing hydrogen peroxide on a cut and applying a bandage does wonders to a surface level wound. What is the equivalent of a band aid to someone having a panic attack? Is there gauze for stopping the stream of suicidal ideation? Can a hot/cold pack reduce the inflammation that is the obsession of craving for drugs and alcohol? Learning how to approach mental health with a first aid mindset can help practitioners, family members, and loved ones feel more safe.
When we see someone experiencing a mental health episode, we might respond in self-centered fear. First, we aren’t aware of what to do. We are aware, however, of how afraid or uncomfortable we might feel. As family members of loved ones in recovery, we know this helpless feeling. Until we learned about addiction and alcoholism we saw our loved ones suffering in great physical, spiritual, and emotional pain. We didn’t have an answer. Now that our loved ones are in recovery, it does not mean they are immune to the proverbial bumps and bruises of mental illness.
Understand that recovery is not always graceful. What is always possible is the way we can approach it with grace, mercy, and compassion. Our loved ones are learning every day and doing the best they can to act accordingly. The same goes for us. Together, as a family unit, we can heal.