Posted on : Thursday February 22, 2018

BEL AIR, Md.—Oak Grove Baptist Church (OGBC) recently hosted a first aid class, but one a bit more unique than most. The church had a mental health first aid class, designed for adults working with youth, to help them identify a potential mental health crisis or even provide immediate attention in the midst of a crisis.

Trey Wooton, OGBC’s minister to children and youth said that while ministering to and with youth, churches must be prepared for not just physical emergencies, but also for mental health crisis situations. “With the severity of what’s going on with teens, we wanted to discover ways to assist them from inside the church…,” said Wooton.

Wooton discovered a program through the Harford County Office of Drug Control Policy that offered a free eight-hour mental health first aid class. A donor within the county even provided large reference books to each participant. The church sponsored the program and invited members, friends, and the community.

The course covered a whole range of mental health topics including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, attention deficit, psychosis, addictions and suicide prevention. Using lecture, role-playing, and simulations, students learned how to assess mental health crisis situations, select interventions and provide initial help while connecting the patient to a professional.  The county also has another shorter class called QPR (Question – Persuade – Refer) that specifically focuses on suicide prevention.

Mental health and suicide prevention are hot topics in today’s world, Wooton said. “People are lost. They don’t know what to do,” he said. The course, he said, just helps people be more confident so that when a mental health issue comes up, they’re not blindsided.

“We want to be well prepared,” Wooton said. “It’s hard to go to a parent or a grandparent and tell them their child or grandchild wants to kill himself,” Wooton said.

Wooton said the course leader emphasizes that participants are not counselors or doctors. “You’re administering first aid till professionals get there. It’s a different perspective,” he said.

“People are hurting. Suicide and heroin use are commonplace in today’s society. We need to know how to do temporary things to encourage them, and help them find the help they need,” Wooton said. He encourages other churches to find resources similar resources available in their counties.