Agassiz Centre for Education principal Sandy Balascak will be teaching the public about a new kind of first aid at two UFV courses this fall.
Balascak was first introduced to the Red Cross’ psychological first aid course in the spring, and quickly realized the value of being able to help people with their mental health as well as their physical health.
“For example, you come across a car accident, nobody expects you to do surgery; they expect you to deal with it at the time, then put that person onto a hospital,” Balascak said about traditional first aid.
“Psychological first aid is somewhat the same.”
A major component of psychological first aid — or PFA — is being able to recognize when someone is having a mental health crisis, whether that’s from shock, grief or accumulated stress.
“If you’re bleeding, that’s obvious,” she said. “The mental health is often the less obvious of the components of a crisis, so just learning to search for that less obvious … and understand the impact that mental health can have in those situations.”
Balascak’s Red Cross course, which will be available on Oct. 5 and Nov. 30 at UFV, will not only focus on helping other people through their mental health crisis and connecting them to resources, but also on self care.
“If I help you with a broken arm, my arm’s going to be fine,” Balascak explained. “But if you help somebody with a mental health issue, it can be hard on you. So part of it is self-care, and recognizing types of stress.”
Being able to manage one’s own mental health can also help people in the course be good role models for others in the community, Balascak said.
“If, as a PFA provider, you’re looking after yourself and doing well, then others around you will begin to model that behaviour, whether they’re PFA providers or not,” she said.
People interested in taking the psychological first aid course can register by calling 1-888-823-8734 or by visiting UFV in person.
Balascak said she is also planning on holding the course during a Fraser Cascade school district ProD day, so that teachers can learn about how they can help their students during a mental health crisis as well.
“Understanding mental health issues is huge for me,” she said. “So it’s just getting people to look and understand the impact that mental health can have in those situations.”