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Mental health training awaits some Elkhart city workers

Skills in interacting with emotionally troubled members of the public follows Martin's shooting.

Posted on April 4, 2014 at 5:55 p.m.

ELKHART — City employees who regularly work with the public will soon receive mental health training.

Among other things, the training will help workers interact with people who appear upset or struggling emotionally and learn steps to work with and help them.

Implementation of the training, known as mental health first aid, comes just months after the Martin’s shooting in which a man described as unstable shot two people before taking his own life.

The plan was proposed by city councilman Brian Dickerson and endorsed by Mayor Dick Moore, who mentioned it Wednesday during his State of the City address.

“We want to make sure individuals are aware there are services available, not just for the people suffering from mental illness, but their family members, co-workers and people that deal with those individuals on a daily basis,” Dickerson said.

To learn more:
To learn more about the services available through NAMI, go to the local group’s website.
Elkhart County Health Department hosts mental health training that is open to anyone. Learn more here.

Moore said he’s worked with local representatives of the National Alliance of Mental Illness in the past and that police receive training annually. He said his administration “jumped at the idea” of more extensive training after hearing about it.

An eight-hour training course for city workers is set for June.

Moore said department heads and those who directly serve the public will receive the training. He said that will encompass about 30 people.

The idea came after Dickerson contacted local representatives of the national alliance who then served as a conduit in arranging plans for training through the Elkhart County Health Department.

At Dickerson’s invitation, two representatives of NAMI recently made a presentation to the city council about their services, much of which involves assistance to families of people with mental illness.

Dickerson said his interest in mental health was spurred in part by the Martin’s shooting.

“We’ve seen issues across the country and here locally,” Dickerson said, adding that maybe somebody could have picked up on clues to the shooter Shawn Bair’s emotional state and prevented the deaths if they had training on mental health issues.

Just recently, Elkhart County prosecutor Curtis Hill said during a press conference that officials had determined Bair had shown signs of mental instability and was believed to have been suicidal.

Gwen Preheim-Bartel, one of two people who made the NAMI presentation to the council, said Indiana ranks among the lowest in states with people trained in mental health first aid.

She and others echoed an often heard concern about the lack of mental health awareness and the need for training and understanding.

However, the county is seeing more groups seek training.

Close to 200 people have received the training in the past two years, said Barb Welty, the health department’s health promotion specialist who is one of four instructors for the class.

One of recent groups was from IU Health Goshen, she said.

The training made available by the health department can help people understand potential warning signs and risk factors for depression, anxiety, trauma and disorders. Certified trainers use a five-step plan to address the person in crisis and involve professional help, according to information provided on the health department’s website.

Welty said it could benefit a wide range of people.

“I wish everyone would take the class,” Welty said. “I literally mean everyone.”

The purpose is straightforward.

“What we hope for is that people are aware of people around them, whether it’s a co-worker, friend or family member, and know signs or symptoms that something’s not right and get them help before that crisis,” Welty said.

Two classes conducted by the county are scheduled in April. An April 23 class is intended for adults concerned about youth who might have emotional issues. The other class is on April 30 and takes a more general approach. For more information about the program, call 523-2283.

To learn more about NAMI, call 596-6464.


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