Become a Mental Health First Aider and Help Create a Safer Community

While it’s important to know CPR and how to control bleeding in an emergency situation, physical injuries are not the only crises that a first responder may encounter. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five adults in the U.S. lives with a mental illness, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or paranoia. And if not treated or managed, it can escalate and pose a danger to the individual and the people around them.

Knowing how to respond when dealing with someone undergoing a mental health crisis can help save lives. “If we’re able to be that first response for that person, we’re able to prevent further injury,” says Veronica Silva, South Texas Health System McAllen Injury Prevention Coordinator.

Mental Health First Aid Training

As part of its injury prevention efforts, South Texas Health System McAllen’s Trauma Department offers Mental Health First Aid training to local community groups and organizations. Mental Health First Aid was designed by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing and is geared toward any adult who wishes to make their community healthier, happier and safer.

“Mental Health First Aid is very useful whenever someone going through a crisis approaches you and you just don’t know how to communicate with them,” says Silva. “You may think, ‘where do I even begin speaking to someone experiencing this?’ So, through this course, we’re able to teach anyone who wants to learn about identifying, recognizing and responding to mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders using a five-step action plan called ALGEE.”

ALGEE Five-Step Action Plan

A ssess for risk of suicide or harm
L isten non-judgmentally
G ive re-assurance and information
E ncourage appropriate professional help
E ncourage self-help and other strategies

Through the course, participants learn about different mental health illnesses and addictions and how to intervene when someone is experiencing a panic attack, suicidal thoughts or acute psychosis, and in other potentially dangerous situations. Upon completion, a Mental Health First Aider certification is awarded, which lasts for three years and counts as continuing education units for Licensed Master Social Workers (LMSW), Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT).

Mental Health First Aid is available virtually, in an eight-hour in-person session, or hybrid of both — with the in-person option provided for free.

Schedule a Training Session

If you’re interested in scheduling a training session, please contact our Injury Prevention Coordinator, Veronica Ann Silva, at 956-632-4929 or by email at veronica.silva2@uhsrgv.com.

During the ongoing pandemic, staff are taking COVID-19 precautions, including limited class sizes, social distancing, mask wearing and sanitizing of equipment.