KU professor: Mental health class teaches how to offer 'first aid' to those in crisis

KU business professor Bill Beedles is an advocate for the training course Mental Health First Aid.

KU business professor Bill Beedles is an advocate for the training course Mental Health First Aid. by Jeff Burkhead

When Bill Beedles took a Mental Health First Aid class in the fall of 2011, it changed his life.

It could also change the life of someone he knows.

“The biggest change is I now have enough knowledge so that I have the courage to intervene if the situation is serious enough that I need to be proactive,” said Beedles, a University of Kansas business professor. “Where I just wasn’t inclined to do so in the past.”

Mental Health First Aid is a 12-hour certification course that helps people identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness. In 2008, the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center was one of seven pilot sites in the nation to begin offering Mental Health First Aid. So far, more than 800 Douglas County residents have been trained in the program, including Beedles.

The program starts with asking the big question.

“Could you look someone in the eye, and with compassion, ask, ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself?’” Beedles said. “Depending on the answer, I also have the knowledge to ask the follow-up questions to find out if the situation is serious enough that I need to be proactive and get the person the professional help they need.”

Bert Nash’s certified instructors in Mental Health First Aid have trained, for example, church staff, law enforcement personnel, University of Kansas faculty and staff, and the Leadership Lawrence class.

“It gives people the skills and information they need to know when a person is developing a problem, how to deal with a crisis a person may be having and how to get them the appropriate professional help,” said Bert Nash CEO David Johnson, who is a certified Mental Health First Aid instructor. “People who have taken Mental Health First Aid will tell you they use the training.”

Beedles, a member of the Bert Nash Endowment Board of Trustees, has not had to ask the big question since taking Mental Health First Aid. But he can’t help but wonder if he had had this training years ago how life might have been different.

“Would I have had the insight to intervene with my adolescent daughter with her eating disorder that she had in junior high?” Beedles said. “Would I have been able to get her help more quickly? I think I would have.”

Another what-if question involves Beedles’ father-in-law.

“Would I have had the courage to look him in the eye and ask, ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself?’ If I had asked that question would he have been alive for the raising of my children and grandchildren? I don’t know the answer to that,” Beedles said. “But now I know I have the knowledge and the courage to ask that question.”

— For information about upcoming classes, visit bertnash.org and click on Mental Health First Aid, or call 785-843-9192.

Beedles said Mental Health First Aid gave him the knowledge and courage to ask the tough questions.

Beedles said Mental Health First Aid gave him the knowledge and courage to ask the tough questions. by Jeff Burkhead

Comments

Marilyn Hull 1 year, 3 months ago

So great to see such a respected KU professor speaking out about mental health issues in his family. Every person who speaks out diminishes the power of stigma.

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Karrey Britt 1 year, 3 months ago

I took Mental Health First Aid and highly recommend it! Taking this class is one way that residents also can take part in the Community Health Plan, which addresses mental health — one of the Top 5 health issues in Douglas County. The plan looks to not only reduce the stigma around mental health but also increase awareness of services that are available in the community.

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