On Tuesday, the National Council hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill for Congressional staff, educating them on the benefits of Mental Health First Aid. The briefing, sponsored by Representatives Lynn Jenkins (R-KY) and Doris Matsui (D-CA), provided staff with an overview of the Mental Health First Aid course and details on the recently reintroduced Mental Health First Aid Act (S.711/H.R.1877).
Laira Roth of the National Council for Behavioral Health and Jamie MacDonald of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board presented highlights of Mental Health First Aid, demonstrating the applicability and usefulness of the training. The briefing engaged staff in course activities including the Mental Health First Aid Action Plan, exploration of myths and facts about mental illness and suicide, and participation in core course exercises.
“Many of us know what to do when we see a person having a heart attack or choking, but very few of us know what to do when someone is having a panic attack, or contemplating suicide,” said Ms. Roth. “That’s where Mental Health First Aid can help.”
Representatives Jenkins and Matsui, as well as Mental Health First Aid Act cosponsor Representative Grace Napolitano (D-CA), opened the briefing by sharing their personal experiences with mental health and championing the course as one that can help saves lives. Rep. Jenkins and Matsui, sponsors of the Mental Health First Aid Act (H.R.1877), commented on the progress made in Congress in addressing the needs of those with mental illness but urged more action to health more people.
“Mental Health First Aid gives us a tangible way to help people,” said Congresswoman Matsui.
The Mental Health First Aid Act authorizes $20 million in grants to organizations for training emergency services personnel, teachers/school administrators, primary care professionals, students, and police officers in Mental Health First Aid. To date, nearly 375,000 people have been trained in Mental Health First Aid in America. Since 2014, Congress has funded an annual appropriation of $15 million for Mental Health First Aid trainings around the country. The National Council strongly supports the continuation of this funding in 2016, along with a new $4 million appropriation for Veterans’ Mental Health First Aid.