When it comes to mental health, most people are not trained to react to crisis situations or not. Mental health issues in Arkansas and the United States are at an all-time high This growing need for mental health services along with an unprecedented shortage of providers, resources and transportation has created a huge need in communities rural and urban which is not being met. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 50% of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lives, and 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in any given year.
A rural organization in Arkansas, Arkansas Rural Health Partnership, is trying to fill the void by teaching people across the state about Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). Mental Health First Aid is an international, evidence-based program that prepares participants to interact with someone in mental health crisis. Participants learn to identify, understand and respond to the signs and symptoms of mental health and addictions issues through a five-step action plan. According to Amanda Kuttenkuler, Senior Director of Programs for the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership, “This evidence-based, internationally recognized program takes the guesswork out of how to respond to someone struggling with a mental health issue. “. Like traditional first aid, mental health first aid gives participants the tools to feel confident in responding to a difficult situation. Mental health first aid is about getting someone with a mental health problem the help they need. This may include directing them to self-help, encouraging professional help, or getting help right away. The program covers both crisis and non-crisis situations. “Mental health issues and addictions issues often go hand in hand, so mental health first aid also incorporates addictions issues into their program.” Substance abuse issues are so prevalent in our communities and schools. that we really can’t tackle one without the other,” according to Kuttenkuler.
Kuttenkuler, who has been with the partnership for three years, was recently named Arkansas State’s Top Mental Health First Aid Instructor. Kuttenkuler trained more than 580 people last year throughout Arkansas. “For me, it’s about meeting people where they are and changing their outlook on mental health. I’ve been blessed to share this program with many people from all over this state and every time it’s the same answer of “why didn’t we love meeting new people and sharing this program with them. My favorite part is hearing stories about when training has made a real difference in a situation. When you see the words and ideas you give people turn into action that helps someone, that’s how you know you know you’re making a difference.”
After a recent training session at a local high school, participants decided to implement an anonymous way for students, parents and teachers to report a mental health incident anonymously. Within six months, the line had been used more than 130 times by students, 16 of whom had suffered self-inflicted injuries or suicidal thoughts and ideation. The school district was able to get immediate help for these students. ARHP has also trained medical professionals, educators, and civic groups throughout the state. One of the latest groups to be taught by ARHP is the entire athletic staff at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, where all of their coaching and managerial staff have been trained in the mental health first aid.
Arkansas Rural Health Partnership, a non-profit organization comprising 15 rural hospitals, 2 community health centers and 2 medical school universities, has recognized the need to address mental and behavioral health when their respective communities have expressed the need for 2019 during community health needs assessments conducted throughout southern Arkansas. “We hope we can provide mental health first aid to as many teachers, students, community members, church leaders, health care providers and emergency responders as possible. “said Mellie Bridewell, president and founder of Arkansas Rural Health. Partnership. By increasing the number of mental health ‘gatekeepers’ in our rural communities and across the state, it will save lives.”
ARHP is a nonprofit organization with 15 members from rural hospitals, including Ashley County Medical Center, Baptist Health Stuttgart, Bradley County Medical Center, Chicot Memorial Medical Center, Dallas County Medical Center, Delta Memorial Hospital, DeWitt Hospital and Nursing Home, Drew Memorial Health System, Helena Regional Medical Center, Jefferson Regional Medical Center, Magnolia Regional Medical Center, McGehee Hospital, Medical Centers of South Arkansas and Ouachita Regional Medical Center, as well as two qualified federal health systems (Mainline Health Systems and Mid Delta Health System), 92 owned/affiliated clinics and UAMS. Together, these organizations continue to expand, maintain, and deliver programs in rural Arkansas communities to ensure access to quality, local health care services and programs through collaborative efforts. Visit www.arruralhealth.org. Find us on Facebook at Arkansas Rural Health Partnership.
Funding for ARHP for Mental Health First Aid is provided by the Arkansas Blue & You Foundation and SAMHSA.