Class teaches signs and symptoms of mental illness - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Class teaches signs and symptoms of mental illness

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MADISON (WKOW) Recent violent crimes have made mental health a topic for discussion.And while the overwhelming majority of those suffering from mental illness are not violent,mood disorders like anxiety and depression are common.

In fact nearly one-fourth of the population suffers from a diagnosable mental illness, according to Journey Mental Health Center in Madison. So the center offers a mental health first aid course.

“We teach all the signs and symptoms of the most common kinds of mental health problems,” said Dan Muxfeld, the mental health first aid program manger.

The Mental Health First Aid class is open to the public and attendees include a police officer.

“Throughout the course they're showing us the signs and symptoms of mental illness but also how to help those people on the scene, so the situation doesn't escalate,” said Sgt. Ryan Jesberger with the Fitchburg Police Department.

Others in the class are members of the business community.

“They spend more waking time with us than they do their family, so we really have an obligation to be aware of how we can help them,” said Jim Neustadt, a human resources manager for a local business.

As part of the course, participants learn a 5 step plan to help someone showing signs of mental illness:

Assess for risk of suicide or harm

Listen and be nonjudgmental

Give reassurance and information

Encourage appropriate professional help

Encourage self-help and other support strategies

It's a plan Jim already put in to action.

“I had to handle a situation very recently, that caught me by surprise, where we had an employee threaten suicide,” Jim said.

Jim says he used what he learned in the first part of the class, talking to the employee and asking questions.

“The fact is-virtually everyone who is seriously considering suicide would like to talk about the problems or the underlying pain they're suffering,” Muxfeld said.

Muxfeld says about one in four people suffer from a diagnosable mental illness, but nearly two-thirds will not get treatment or support. That’s in part, because of stigmas associated with mental illness.

“If it was ok with everyone to have anxiety or depression or another form of mental health problem, then it would be ok to get care and treatment for it,” Muxfeld said. “And that's really what the goal of mental health first aid training is.”

Jim says the employee is now getting help.

He says he didn’t except to use the skills from the class so soon but it solidified why he enrolled.

“We can do a lot of things with our employees, they are so important to us but if we ignore their needs in their greatest time of need, we're not doing our job for them,” Jim said.

According to Journey Mental Health Center half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, so the center also offers a youth mental health course. Both course are eight hours and cost $80 per course.

For more information on the classes and for mental health resources, click here.

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