By Cindy Foster

Community Invited to Free Mental Health First Aid Class at Rio Rancho Campus

Community members, healthcare professionals and first responders are all invited to participate in the free Mental Health First Aid course being offered again at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Rio Rancho campus.

The national course teaches how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders.

Almost one in five Americans experience mental health problems every year, but many don't know where to turn for care, according to Christopher Morris, PhD, clinical psychologist and director of the new UNM Community Behavior Health Clinic.

Unlike physical conditions, mental health and substance use problems can be difficult for others to detect and friends and family members often don't know when and how to step in, he says.

"We can all help each other when someone is having mental health challenges," Morris says.

The class was first offered at the UNM Health Sciences Rio Rancho campus in 2018. Originally developed in Australia, the course came to the U.S. in 2008 and has been adapted for use throughout the world.

Nationally, more than two million Americans have taken the class. In New Mexico, 232 certified instructors have trained more than 25,000 people.

"We know from research that the training provides people with a better understanding of mental health issues and increases their confidence that they could offer help if needed," Morris says.

"Finally - and most importantly - it reduces stigma in seeking help. By recognizing signs of mental health distress and knowing how to communicate with individuals in distress, we can all be part of vital early intervention, increasing the chances people get the help they need as soon as possible," Morris says.

The class is free but seating is limited and pre-registration is required.

The eight-hour class will take place November 5 from 8 am - 5 pm at the UNM Health Sciences Rio Rancho Campus, located at 2600 College Blvd NE.

Call UNM Behavioral Health Clinic at (505) 994-5050 to register or email contact info to: bh-clinic@unmmg.org