It could be a simple conversation, or an acknowledgement of a lingering issue.
Whatever the case, opening the lines of communication around mental health issues are seen as the most important step in preventing the problem from getting worse.
It's for that reason that Port Coquitlam's New View Society will be offering mental health first aid courses later this month out of their PoCobased offices on Mary Hill Road. Running May 31 and June 1, the 12-hour course is open to anyone and no previous mental health experience is necessary.
Given that May 1 to May 5 is Mental Wellness Week, the society is aligning itself with others in the mental health field to shed light on the courses, and the field of mental health as a whole.
"Not only is mental health first aid important in terms of the workplace, but it's important to help people stay in their jobs as opposed to letting things [deteriorate and people losing their jobs over things that are actually solvable," said Donna Bonertz, an employment specialist with the society who will be teaching the two-day course.
"But it's also important to people and their family member, their social circles. It's available and open to anyone and it's as relevant as having physical first aid."
Problem-solving strategies, PowerPoint presentations, case studies and demonstrations will all be included in the course.
Participants will also be trained to look for signs that suggest someone is experiencing mental health problems, and according to the Bonertz, there are some tell-tale indicators: if someone appears continually tired or upset at work, or appears withdrawn from their job tasks or social situations.
"People will be learning hands-on skills that would be the equivalent of what you would learn when taking a physical first aid course," Bonertz said.
"These are actual strategies and actions that a person would use to help someone who may be suicidal, or may be having a panic attack or someone experiencing psycho-sis."
And while identifying those signs may seem somewhat straight forward, approaching that person to have a conversation about their problems is not.
"This is some pretty heavy stuff, there's no doubt about that," Bonertz said. "The tendency is to walk away from it because there is a fear around it. People don't know how to help, it seems uncomfortable, and maybe it's a little weird. We have to break down that sort of stigma. This is why we're [offering this course]. Mental health is everybody's issue."
Statistics from the Mental Health Commission of Canada suggest one in three Canadians will be affected by mental health problems at some point in their lives.
Further stats from the Canadian Mental Health Association suggest that 20 per cent of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime; eight per cent of adults will experience major depression in their lives and one per cent of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder, or manic depression.
According to a 2002 report entitled The Report On Mental Illness in Canada, the economic cost of mental illness in Canada in 1998 was pegged at $7.9 billion - $4.7 billion in care and $3.2 billion in disability and early death.
"We hear so much now about people living with mental health issues and struggling with mental health issues," Bonertz said.
"The bottom line is it affects our economy, it affects our interpersonal relations both at work and at home.
It's becoming so much more relevant and important that we really need to talk about it. We need to have people who are comfortable in dealing with and helping people with mental health first aid issues."
Those interested in signing up for the mental health first aid courses are encouraged to contact Bonertz directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 604-941-3222.
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