Everyone can help their loved ones if they notice they might have mental health issues with the Mental Health First Aid programme called AEGE.
This programme was headed by Betty Kitchner and Anthony Jorn. While this programme is not available in Malaysia yet, the Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA) runs a two day intensive course on understanding mental illness which provides knowledge to equip first aiders of mental health to carry out their roles.
However, it is important to note that the first aid programme is not to help one diagnose or treat mental illness, rather it is to help the first aiders discern if someone is having a mental illness and to help refer them to professionals.
Since the first signs of mental illness typically presents itself in unusual behaviour, it is therefore not encouraged to use the programme to help strangers, since the helper would most likely have no idea as to what the sufferer’s behaviour usually is like.
As Datin Dr. Ang Kim Teng encourages those who do want to become first aiders to use the programme only among people they know.
AEGE is an acronym that stands for Approach and Assess, Engage, Give support/Get help and Encourage.
Approach – Be calm and confident. Move the person to a private or comfortable space if time allows. If not, try to minimise distractions as best you can. Above all, ensure you and the person you are helping are safe.
Assess – Observe the person, especially their emotional state, facial expression, breathing and consciousness level. Conduct further observation after engaging the person.
Engage – Establish rapport with the person. It is important to be calm and use a non-judgemental voice when speaking. Show that you are genuinely concerned. The main aim of this step is to understand where the person is coming from. In the event the person is not ready to speak, don’t push them. Instead indicate they can always return to you when they’re ready.
Give support/Get help – This step requires the first aider to have knowledge on common mental health problems and resources for help. If you do not have that knowledge, it is best to refer the person to a professional immediately. However, if the situation is threatening, call the police. Involve the authorities only if the person is a danger to himself or others (i.e. if the person is threatening to hang himself or jump from a building)
Encourage – Tell the person to seek help and suggest some resources. Most importantly, assure them that mental health issues are common and there is no shame in seeking he Sometimes you may have to refer the person to the appropriate resources yourself.
Awareness can save a life. Look both ways to stop suicide.
With so many messages about suicide coming at ysou through the media and entertainment – whether it’s 13 Reasons Why or disturbing stories in the news – it’s important to know you can stop suicide simply by being aware and taking action. Aware of the risk factors and warning signs that can lead to suicide…aware of how to have a caring conversation with someone you’re worried about…aware that help is always available…aware of the fact that prevention starts with simply approaching mental health like the real and important aspect of health that it is.
Think about the people you come into contact with throughout the course of your day. Your family, neighbours, classmates, co-workers, and friends. Do your part in creating a caring culture by being present, taking a moment, listening, and knowing what to look for, not just in others, but yourself. Practice mental health safety by looking both ways – outward and inward – at others and in yourself. You need to look both ways – knowledgeably and compassionately – to stay aware and take action if you or the people in your community need help.