Suicide is the number two cause of death for ages 10-24, and in rural communities suicide has risen 40 percent since 1999, according to Steve Terrill, a Logan County advocate for public mental health education. Terrill says mental illness is increasing throughout the country and that this includes drug addiction, depression, anxiety and other issues. He and his wife, Debbie, have created the Mindful Minds nonprofit group to bring awareness to this problem and to help people with their mental health.
To help people learn to care for their mental health as effectively as they do their physical health, Terrill taught a class called Mental Health First Aid, an eight-hour course taught in two sessions, Jan. 13 and Jan 20, at the Indian Lake Community Church in Russells Point.
“Some people call it a CPR course for your mind, because it is designed to educate people on what mental health is,” Terrill said. “We understand how to take care of our mind like we do our body, but more importantly we understand in a crisis situation how to help somebody, identify that somebody needs help, be able to talk to them and get them help. We’re not diagnosing the help, but we’re like a CPR course in the fact we’re educated enough to know how to help somebody who’s in a crisis situation, and that could be an overdose, that could be a suicide risk, that could be severe depression, anxiety, PTSD for veterans, or a lot of things.”
Indian Lake Schools
Following the first class of the year, Terrill will next teach the course to more than 220 staff, teachers and counselors of Indian Lake schools on Feb. 16 at the request of Superintendent Rob Underwood.
“We know that education reaches far beyond academics alone and that students cannot flourish if they are coping with personal crisis,” Underwood said. “It can be extremely difficult to be a child in today’s world, and, therefore, the Indian Lake staff is dedicated to raising awareness about mental illness and the realities of living with these conditions, along with providing strategies for attaining mental health and wellness. The entire staff is being trained in Mental Health First Aid so that we can better identify students who demonstrate the signs of mental illness, crisis or substance abuse and support them on a path to well-being. Indian Lake Schools will continue to partner with community leaders, local officials and government agencies to promote mental health awareness and to create a safe and nurturing environment for our students.”
“There’s a big movement to have our teachers take this course,” Terrill said. “There’s been a lot of teachers take the youth course – that’s adults working with youth – and it’s training them to understand what’s going on with their students and how to help them. Taking this course is very focused on helping people who are really in serious trouble. We’ve had too many, and one is too many, youth suicides. Teachers are now getting trained to understand the bullying, the social media, and the stress these kids have and to understand the signs and symptoms of mental illness.”
According to Terrill, Underwood originally wanted to do the class in early January, but they were unable to provide the eight or nine instructors needed at that time. Since then, Miami University and Ohio State University have offered to provide instructors. Steve and Debbie Terrill plan to offer an adult version of the class to those who have been through the youth version and are working with parents.
“Fifty percent of mental illnesses start before you’re 14 years old, and 75 percent start before you’re 22,” he said. “This course is given to inmates, doctors, lawyers, nurses, social workers, teachers and people in any walk of life. You would think we all have this training, but they don’t, and unfortunately our schools and education community is not providing mental health education like they do physical. This is a way to learn about how to take care of yourself and, hopefully, to help others.”
Other versions of the course can be customized to suit public safety officers or veterans. Terrill said 22 U.S. veterans’ lives are lost every day to suicide, while law enforcement officers routinely encounter the mentally ill the the course of doing their work.
Individuals completing the course receive a certificate, and their names are added to a national registry of those equipped to help in a mental health crisis, which Terrell said looks good on any resume.
“Debbie and I recently joined the Logan-Champaign County suicide loss team,” he said. “We go out if there’s a suicide or an accident that caused a loss and meet with the family and with the public safety people, because the cops are very stretched with trying to understand what happened. We’re there to help the family and those people that are just trying to survive a loss. Someone who just lost a son is in shock, and they have a much better recovery rate if we give them help.”
The Terrills began offering this training for free following a personal experience with suicide loss. Steve is also a member of the Logan-Champaign County Mental Health Board that supports these efforts.
“I started searching for how two people who have no training in mental health can help the current people who do that – at Consolidated Care and other counselors – and I found this because anybody could take it,” he said. “I could become trained. You take a one-day training, but if you want to you can go get a five-day training to be an instructor that is very intense.
“It is for the public. Anybody can take it,” he added. “It’s a serious topic, but we try to make it very informative, and we try to make it positive and fun. It’s not sitting there just for a lecture. It’s interactive. You do some exercises and you’re on teams. Ninety-nine percent of people would say they’re glad they took the course. Our biggest promotion is how many people take the course and tell everybody they know how great it is.”
Another education program, Gatekeeper, is 90 minutes long and focuses on understanding suicide symptoms.
To enroll or find out about the next available course, contact Terrill at 919-623-0952 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304.