Mental health first aid training lays groundwork for veterans and their families

‘Education is the big thing to let people know you’re there to support them’

Families need to understand what help is available, says Moore. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Some Island veterans and their families had the chance to take part in mental health first aid training this week.

‘What a mental health first aider does is a lot of the groundwork,’ says instructor Tony Deveaux. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

The training was led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada in partnership with the P.E.I. Military Family Resource Centre, which invited Island veterans, their families and community members who work with the veteran community to participate.

The training is designed to help people identify the signs of an emerging mental health problem in themselves and others and teaches them how to respond effectively in the event of a mental health emergency.

“Participants learn about mental health topics and they learn about what to look for in somebody if they’re experiencing a mental health crisis,” said Tony Deveaux, a mental health first aid instructor for the commission.

The course covers signs and symptoms of mental health issues like addiction, depression and substance abuse, Deveaux said, as well as the stigma surrounding having a mental illness.

The training for veterans also pays close attention to symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety, he added, and educates participants about different mental health resources they can use to support someone who may be struggling.

“What a mental health first aider does is a lot of the groundwork,” he said.

“Find out where can we go, where are the resources, what’s available in the community and stay with the person and be a comfort to them until they get the professional help they actually need.”

‘Education is the big thing’

Bill Moore, a veteran who sits on the board of the Military Family Resource Centre, completed the training this week. He said after serving for 32 years and completing several tours, he struggled with PTSD and anxiety.

“Back when this was happening to me, my wife and my kids knew there was something going on,” Moore said.

“But they didn’t know how to deal with it, didn’t know where to get the help for me and we struggled. We struggled as a family.”

The training is important, he said, because it helps to create support systems in the community and at home for veterans and soldiers as they transition back to civilian life.

“I think it’s important that we educate people so they know and that the families — the wives, the boyfriends, the girlfriends, the daughters — take this course or have some kind of understanding of what’s out there to help” he said.

“Education is the big thing to let people know you’re there to support them.”

The training program is funded by Veteran’s Affairs Canada and free for any member of the veteran community to attend.

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