With the growing issue of opioid addiction and the fact that suicide is now the number-one killer of people under age 25, many people are searching for answers when it comes to mental health and how to deal with those who are suffering.

On Saturday, March 24, a one-day class, called “Mental Health First Aid,” will be taught in Nevada at the Memorial Lutheran Church on 11th Street.

Teaching the class, which is sponsored by Central Iowa Community Services (CICS), will be Kathy L. Johnson and Patti Triebel Leeds, both social workers and instructors for CICS. Without the sponsorship of CICS, the class would cost $100 per participant, so the value to those who take part is clearly that they will save money, while receiving valuable information and resources on how to deal with mental health issues.

“I think the enormity of the mental health crisis is an eye-opener for people,” stated Johnson, who said one in five adults in this country will experience a mental health issue this year. Sadly, she said, “many are reluctant to seek help or might not know where to turn.”

Unlike physical conditions, Johnson said, mental health and substance use disorder problems can be difficult to detect. “For friends and family members, it can be hard to know when and how to step in. As a result, folks in need of mental health services often don’t get them until it’s too late.”

Johnson said the Mental Health First Aid class is designed to give the average lay person specific information and tools to use when they encounter a person who is experiencing issues. The class also discusses the stigma that exists when it comes to mental health and the preconceived notions about these mental illnesses. “We stress that this class doesn’t make someone a therapist or psychiatrist — they do not become diagnosers — but they will get very specific information on the symptoms and signs of the most common mental health disorders and a five-step tool to use to assess the risk for harm. That five-step system will also help them direct loved ones to the ongoing assistance they might need.

“The class equips the average person with some knowledge and tools to provide that help,” Johnson said.

Preregistration is required for the class because the size is limited; we register all participants with the National Mental Health First aid organization because they will get a certificate of completion. The class will start at 8 a.m. at the church and go until 4:30 p.m. Participants will need to be 18 years of age. Morning and afternoon snacks will be provided, but participants will need to bring a sack lunch with them.

The format for the class is a combination of PowerPoint information that is explained using examples and videos, as well as some small group exercises to further illustrate the information. Mental Health First Aid came to American from Australia 10 years ago and today, more than one million people are certified Mental Health First Aiders.

If anyone needs to find more information about the class, or to preregister, email Kathy Johnson at kathy.johnson@cicsmhds.org or call, 515-663-2941.