The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 15, 2013

Mike Pound: Mental health first aid course a good idea

By Mike Pound

— I was chatting with Rick Wiseman the other day about mental illness.

Rick works for the Joplin chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, better known as NAMI. We were talking about the fact that this country’s ways of dealing with mental illness are under review after the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. We both agreed that is a good thing.

Then I mentioned Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, and his call for a national database to track the mentally ill. We both agreed it is not a good thing.

“It would make those with mental illness second-class citizens,” Rick said. “It would be no different than making Jews wear yellow stars.”

One of the goals of NAMI is to provide assistance and comfort to those suffering from mental illness and to provide support for their families. Another goal is to educate the public about mental illness, to help the public understand that mental illness shouldn’t be a stigma and to explain the obstacles that those suffering from mental illness face every day.

One of the difficult things about mental illness is that there are so many types and degrees of illness.

That, by the way, is one reason LaPierre’s database suggestion is such a bad idea.

There are some things you can do to deal with someone who might be having some sort of an issue relating to mental health. One way is to recognize when someone is in trouble and how to help the person, and Joplin NAMI wants to teach people how to do just that.

On Friday, Feb. 1, and Saturday, Feb. 2, Joplin NAMI is holding a two-day course titled Mental Health First Aid. The seminar was developed at the University of Melbourne in Australia and was brought to the United States by a joint effort of people in Missouri and Maryland.

Rick said the course will teach people how to provide assistance to someone experiencing a problem until professionals can arrive and take over. It’s much like providing basic first aid to an accident victim until paramedics arrive.

The seminar, Rick said, will teach participants how to recognize why someone is behaving the way he is and how to safely defuse the situation. The key word, by the way, is safely, Rick said.

“There should be no physical contact, and you should always keep yourself in a safe position,” he said.

“I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from the training — pastors, doctors, the foreman on the floor at a factory, the person working the front desk of an office.”

The seminar, which will run from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. both days, will be taught by Mike Jones, of Branson. A former U.S. Marine chaplain, Mike has three psychology degrees and works with veterans struggling with mental illness.

This is the first time this year that Joplin NAMI is offering the seminar. It was offered five times last year, Rick said.

Rick said spots for the seminar have been filling up quickly, but there are still spaces available. For more information about the course, people may call Diana Harper at 417-291-3173.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.