October is a big month for mental health. World Mental Health Day is coming up on October 10th. While it’s essential to use this time as a reminder, mental health is critical year-round.
It can be intimidating to reach out during the first signs of mental illness, and often we don’t recognize them. Fortunately, there are resources available for anonymous help and screenings. The critical work we can do right now is to raise awareness and reduce the social stigma that prevents those in need from seeking help. The reality is that 18.5% of adults in the United States experience mental illness in any given year (anxiety being the most common). That’s one in five! If it’s not you, it may be someone close to you, so it’s essential to know how to help if approached with that need.
The National Council for Behavioral Health has adopted a mnemonic device to remind you of the steps to take if you witness someone having a mental health crisis. ALGEE stands for:
A – Assess for risk of suicide or harm. This is the most important step. Don’t worry about putting an idea in someone’s head by asking. If you have reason to question it, that thought is already present. If there is an immediate danger, call 911.
L – Listen nonjudgmentally. You don’t have to have answers, and at this point, you shouldn’t attempt to give advice. If the first step is the most important, this step is the most difficult. Just be present and listen.
G – Give reassurance and information. Let them know that they are not alone, and you hear what they are telling you. Provide emotional support and share personal experiences you may have had.
E – Encourage appropriate professional help. There’s a list of helpful numbers below that will either offer direct support or refer callers to the specific help they need. It’s not up to you to fix anything.
E – Encourage self-help and other support strategies. Professional help should be encouraged first, but it may be met with resistance if they are unaware of the different options available. In this case, promote self-help and support through a broader network of family and friends.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
SAMHSA National Helpline (Substance Abuse & Mental Health): 1-800-662-4357
Text MHA to 741741 for the Mental Health America Crisis Text Line.
To learn more about Mental Health First Aid, complete a course and get certified, visit www.MentalHealthFirstAid.org.