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NY Mental-Health First Aid in Spotlight for Suicide Prevention Month

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Tuesday, September 7, 2021   

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- September is Suicide Prevention Month, and New Yorkers are being asked to make use of training sessions that are available on how to respond to emotional crises, especially as the pandemic continues to affect mental health.

Samantha Colson, director of training and programs for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Rochester, said in the last few years, New York state has worked to fund "Mental Health First Aid" sessions, so they are offered at low- or no-cost to the public and in schools.

She thinks it is imperative that young people get this kind of training.

"Just foundational training around mental health, mental illness, and how to support a friend that may be struggling," Colson explained. "And that support should include, 'I'm here for you, I hear you, but now we need to get to a trusted adult that can really help you get the help that you need.'"

Colson added phone hotlines, like 211 or 311, can directly connect New Yorkers to mental-health care, and the national crisis helpline is at 800-273-TALK.

Suicide is among the top causes of death among people ages 10 to 34, second only to unintentional injury, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Colson noted one reason people cite most often for not reaching out for support is the stigma surrounding mental-health challenges, even though
one in five U.S. adults experiences a mental illness. She said helping someone in an emotional crisis begins with small action steps.

"I would tell that helper to first take a breath, because it can seem overwhelming when someone's laying that on you," Colson advised. "And do your best to center yourself and really listen, nonjudgmentally, to that person that is sharing their experience and sharing their struggle."


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