OTC Offers Mental Health First Aid Course

(Springfield, MO) -- You may know how to give CPR or perform the Heimlich Maneuver.
But would you know what to do if someone close to you showed signs of mental illness?
There's a new first aid course teaching people to look for mental health symptoms and how to help.

While it may seem like Professor Jo Fritts is just looking over her students' work at Ozarks Technical Community College, she's also tuning in beyond their assignment. 

"Their body movements, the verbiage, the words they're using."

It's part of her training from the mental health first aid course.

"Textbooks and everything don't teach you how to deal with those personal issues that you're going to encounter from your students."

Fritts is one of hundreds in the Ozarks who've taken the class, which is preparing educators, nurses and religious leaders how to recognize mental illness symptoms in those around them.

"It's not for psychologists or psychiatrists," says Dottie Mullikin, instructor. "It's for your mom, or your dad, or for your teacher." 

Mullikin helped start the program. She says it's the first of its kind the in country. 

Once someone recognizes symptoms like depression, psychosis, panic attacks, or suicidal thoughts and behavior, they're better equipped for offering advice. 

"Is it appropriate if someone's experiencing depression to sit down and have a cup of tea with them?" asks Mullikin. "Is it appropriate to refer them to a place like Burrell?"

Mullikan says eventually she'd like to see mental health first aid become as common as physical first aid at workplaces, schools and public places. It's an awareness she says will help prevent self harm by the masses.

"People can acknowledge them, can get help, can go on to live perfectly productive lives."

So while her students are putting pen to paper, Fritts is now able to grade more than just their coursework.

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