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On the mental health front lines

August 22, 2014 6:00 am Published by Comments Off on On the mental health front lines

Jaimee Hanna is 21 years old and recently graduated from college in the Pacific Northwest. She is Straight Up’s summer intern and is blogging regularly about her experiences with us.

The stigma behind mental health and substance abuse disorders creates a barrier of shame and embarrassment for those with a disorder and discourages members of society from truly understanding the issue and impact that it bears. The Mental Health First Aid Training hosted by the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District and Community Coalition of Simi Valley and made possible through funding from the Ventura County Behavioral Health Department helped me understand the signs of a mental illness or substance abuse disorder as well as an action plan to assess and help in a potentially life or death situation for someone suffering from a disorder. Three other Straight Up employees and volunteers joined me on this mission to enrich our knowledge and become certified in such a crucial and important field. The class was both informational and interactive and the variety of activities allowed the material to be absorbed in an interesting and unique way. From movies to role playing activities the opportunities to be engaged were endless. This course hits close to home as someone very close to me suffers from an anxiety disorder and I feel that this class has equipped me with the skills to effectively help this person calm down in a time of severe panic. If we can become a more understanding and aware community around the issues of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders we can extinguish the stigma and humiliation placed on the shoulders of those who may be suffering one of these illnesses.

Katie, Jaimee, Becky, Roland
Straight Up volunteer Katie, intern Jaimee, and staff members Becky and Roland receiving their certificates!

Many people disregard the symptoms of mental illnesses as a phase or something that will pass and do not take it seriously. These signs are a cry for help and many people regret not paying enough attention to them. A recent blog post about the signs of depression as well as what to do if you or someone you know is depressed was posted by a local high school student in Ventura County and can be found here. Knowledge is power and the more information one knows about mental illnesses and disorders the more power they have in helping or even saving someone’s life. This class along with online blogs and informational websites all provide important knowledge to be equipped with whether you know someone suffering from a mental illness or not.

Often times substance abuse disorders and mental disorders go hand in hand. The stigma behind mental disorders discourages those who are suffering from receiving proper treatment and these people often self-medicate with alcohol and drugs to relieve the symptoms they are experiencing. What they don’t know is that alcohol and drugs can cause the symptoms to become worse or can interact with medications they may already be taking as treatment and reduce their effectiveness. Those who may not be experiencing symptoms of a mental disorder but are at risk because of their genetics, environment, or other factors that come into play may increase their risk of developing a mental disorder with drug and alcohol use. Mental illness is often the push that youth feel towards substance abuse. If we can become a more understanding and aware society we can diminish the feeling of helplessness that youth often feel and encourage treatment and discourage self-medication. It is likely that you know someone suffering from a substance abuse disorder and you should be aware that they may also be suffering from a mental illness. This course can help one identify a mental illness as well as recommend treatment for someone in need.




To register for a Mental Health First Aid training: