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Mental health first aid helps Vernon's veterans

Vernon Morning Star - 5/23/2024

First Aid isn't just for open wounds. Even the injuries you can't see need assistance.

The (BC MFRC) is bringing Mental Health First Aid, Veteran Community to Vernon for the first time.

This free two-day workshop is for the families or service providers who support medically released veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP.

Vernon and the North Okanagan area are home to five branches of the Royal Canadian Legion; one branch of the Army, Navy, Air Force Veterans in Canada; the Vernon Cadet Camp Museum; The British Columbia Dragoons 1st Troop; and approximately 50 actively serving Canadian Armed Forces families. Additionally, the Okanagan area office of Veterans Affairs Canada reported a total of 2,213 veterans (Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP) served as of March 2022.

Mental Health First Aid is one component of the Veteran Family Program which BC MFRC delivers on behalf of Veteran Affairs Canada (VAC). The program supports the health and well-being of families as they transition from military to civilian life.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend, or colleague. In any given year, one in five people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness.

"It's not uncommon for people to learn regular first aid to prepare them for medical emergencies such as burns and sprains. The mental health first aid course takes that preparedness to the next level, providing valuable, potentially life-saving information and crisis intervention skills to manage mental health challenges," said Tracy Cromwell, BC MFRC executive director.

A range of mental health issues will be covered by the course, including mood, anxiety, trauma-related, and substance use disorders. The course will also teach skills for dealing with drug overdose, suicidal behaviour, panic attacks, psychosis, and acute stress reaction.

Ultimately, the course will enable participants to build the skills and confidence necessary to engage in effective conversations about mental health, help them recognize the most common mental health problems and illnesses, increase their comfort level in helping others, and decrease the stigma and discrimination around mental health problems and illnesses.

"Mental health issues are often met with significant stigma," said Cromwell. "That's what's so great about Mental Health First Aid – Veteran Community. Because the course is about helping others, participants don't worry about standing out as having a problem if they attend. In this way, the course is truly non-threatening for those who'd like to learn more about dealing with these issues."