With mental health struggles on the rise, St. John Ambulance BC & Yukon is reminding communities of the importance of getting trained in mental health response.
In B.C. and Canada, mental health has always been a growing concern, affecting one in five Canadians in any given year, but even more so during the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a 2022 poll done by Angus Reid Institute Survey and CBC, 54 per cent of Canadians said their mental health worsened during COVID-19. In another 2022 survey done by Maru Public Opinion, 40 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 in Canada said they feel they are currently at a mental health breaking point.
“During a serious public health emergency, COVID-19, communities definitely experienced a second crisis within the mental health space. This has created a strong need for people to find solutions for one another - we hope our mental health courses can provide a piece of that solution,” said Laurie Lowes, a long-time mental health instructor for St. John Ambulance BC & Yukon.
St. John Ambulance currently offers a two-day in-class Mental Health First Aid course provided by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and a one-day Mental Health & Wellness in the Workplace course, which can be taken either in-class or virtually with an instructor over Zoom.
In Mental Health First Aid, students learn from a community standpoint about the different kinds of mental health illnesses, including substance-related, mood-related, anxiety and trauma-related, and psychotic disorders, stigma around mental health, how to recognize the signs of someone struggling, how to step in and offer help, and more. In Mental Health & Wellness for the Workplace, students learn about facing mental health in a work environment. This includes lessons on the phases of mental health illnesses, how to create a healthy workplace, how to reduce stigma, responding to mental health injuries, work-life balance, burnout, and more.
“Here at St. John Ambulance, we aim to raise awareness and educate on not just first aid for physical injuries, but also for injuries not as easily seen, such as mental health illnesses. Resources and services can be difficult for many to find, especially now, so our hope is that our mental health courses provide everyday citizens the confidence and skills needed to support each other,” said Ty Speer, CEO of St. John Ambulance BC & Yukon.
In Lowes’ experience teaching these courses, he has received feedback from students on the class being a comfortable and compassionate environment that leaves them feeling prepared to face a mental health crisis. “It really is a rewarding and incredibly important subject to teach.”
Mental Health First Aid is available in Victoria and Lower Mainland locations, while the workplace-focused course is available across B.C. A mental health lesson is also included in St. John Ambulance’s Standard First Aid, Standard First Aid for Industry, and Emergency First Aid for Industry courses. Register for a course at sja.ca/first-aid-training or by calling 1-866-321-2651. Proceeds from all training courses and safety products go towards the charity’s community service programs.