Ohio State University Extension Offers Mental Health ‘First Aid’ Session in St. Clairsville

Recent suicides of prominent people have called attention to the issue and left some asking why people take their own life and what warning signs they could have missed.

The Ohio State University offered a mental health First Aid training course Thursday at Undo’s. Lorrissa Dunfee, Family & Consumer Science Educator and mental health first aid trainer, said the meeting represented a broad cross-section of professionals and laypersons from around the community who want to help peers, co-workers and family.

The presentations touched on warning signs of all mental health issues, including suicide.

“This mental health/First Aid training is to help in crisis situations, or to help people that are experiencing different mental health issues, and connect people to appropriate resources for help,” she said. “Providing hope to people and letting them know that recovery is possible. We have had an increase of suicide in our communities, so just discussing the stigma of mental health can be helpful.”

Dunfee said more people have become aware recently of the issue of suicide.

“We’ve had celebrities recently that have taken their life,” said Dunfee who mentioned Kate Spade, a fashion designer who apparently committed suicide earlier this month. “This is just providing education for what to look for … Since one in five adults are effected by mental illness, it’s not ‘those people,’ it’s people that we work beside. It’s our family members, and so it’s important that we reach out to those people that are hurting.”

She said the opioid crisis contributes to mental health concerns.

“Typically, if there’s one mental health issue, substance abuse is also involved, because people self-medicate and the average time before people get any help is typically 10 years,” said Dunfee. “During that 10 year span, often they’re looking at self-medicating and using alcohol.”

Other pressures include depression and anxiety. Dunfee said suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the country, with men dying by suicide 3 1/2 times more often than women.

Misty Harmon, OSU Extension Family & Consumer Science Educator and mental health first aid trainer from Perry County, also gave a presentation.

“We know that it’s a huge issue in Appalachia particularly,” said Harmon. “Lack of access to care, lack of resources for people seeking treatment for mental health and also that kind of ‘we take care of our own’ (attitude) so a lot of people don’t get treatment.”

She said other factors also contribute, such as recent tragedy; a family history of suicide; or other mental health issues.

“A lot of people have lost hope,” said Dunfee. “We try to instill that there’s hope that things will get better and recovery is possible.”

Preston Tedrick, information services staff with the St. Clairsville District Library, gathered data to aid the library’s role in helping the community.

“We’re very active in the community so we try to make sure we can help anybody with any kind of needs,” he said. “It’s a good idea to communicate and understand situations that might come up in the community…We provide any kind of information that we can on the subjects that we need to.”

Ashley Thompson, registered nurse with the Jefferson County Juvenile Detention Center, said resources and support are valuable.

“Many of the children I deal with in the detention center have mental illness, and anything I can do to help take care of these children or their families, I want to do,” said Thompson. “Any training I can receive. Because when they’re in detention, they’re in a crisis, and you want to prevent that. Many of the kids that we receive do not have a very stable home-life, along with mental illness of their family and themselves. It’s all together, and when we get them, they’re at their worst point.”

She also said she hopes to gain a better understanding of how to talk to and treat the juvenile offenders, as well as gather further knowledge of available resources.

“In this area, as drug abuse gets worse, I’m seeing more incidents of suicide,” Thompson said.

Kurt Turner, chaplain and Critical Incident Stress coordinator with the Belmont County Emergency Management Agency, said frequently works with veterans.

“A lot of times, the things I deal with are a lot deeper than people identify,” said Turner. “Just being able to see and understand people that are showing emotions, where it’s coming from, maybe what it means. Basically realizing people are showing symptoms.”

He said 23 veterans commit suicide daily in the United States.

“It’s changed a lot since Vietnam,” said Turner. “When we Vietnam veterans came back, we had nobody to talk to. We were crazy. We got spit on because it was an unpopular war, but even today when there’s a lot of help out there, a lot of veterans won’t go. They feel that it’s a weakness and they’re afraid to go for help.”

Turner said veterans and those around them should learn to recognize those indicators.

“Have them understand the symptoms, the people themselves,” he said. “It helps if we can teach them and have them understand and start seeing symptoms in themselves, to go for professional help.”

For help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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