National Council Convenes Veterans and Mental Health Leaders to Launch Mental Health First Aid for Veterans Innovative Program Offers Proven Techniques to Recognize and Respond to Mental Illness and Addiction

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council), along with leaders from veterans service organizations and fellow mental health advocates, today launched a new training program – Mental Health First Aid for Veterans – that offers participants a simple, proven combination of information and techniques to recognize and respond to the warning signs of mental illness and addiction.

The innovative new program was developed by and for service members. An estimated 30 percent of active duty and reserve military personnel who deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have mental health conditions requiring treatment – about 730,000 men and women – with many experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression.  The National Council pioneered Mental Health First Aid in the U.S. and has trained more than 180,000 individuals to connect with youth and adults in need of mental health and addictions care in their communities. This new program builds on that successful effort.  

"Given the number of veterans living with untreated mental health conditions, Mental Health First Aid for Veterans is needed now more than ever," said National Council President and CEO Linda Rosenberg. "This pioneering program gives people a tangible way to help those who have done so much for us.  It recognizes the resilience and strength of our veteran community and fosters understanding, compassion and engagement among veterans and service members and within their larger community."

"We owe a great deal to our men and women who have served in our armed forces, many who come back with wounds that are more difficult to detect than physical injuries," said Sen. Mark Begich (Alaska). "While we can never fully repay that debt, we can provide the services our veterans need and deserve as well as empower their communities to better assist them. Much like my bill to provide resources for mental health first aid across the country, Mental Health First Aid for Veterans is an excellent and comprehensive way to detect the early warning signs of mental illness and addiction among our former service men and women, making sure our vets get the care they need. I thank the National Council for Behavioral Health for this good work in developing this program."

Mental Health First Aid for Veterans builds on the original Mental Health First Aid program, a proven training program for educators, community leaders, law enforcement and public safety officials listed on the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices. Mental Health First Aid for Veterans incorporates the unique experiences and needs of the military, veteran, and family population.

"I am so pleased that Mental Health First Aid has launched a program specifically intended for members of the military, veterans, and their families," said Patrick Kennedy, co-founder of One Mind for Research and a former member of Congress. "This program has the power to change our attitudes and ensure that mental illnesses are perceived and treated as issues of chemistry, not issues of character. The numbers show such a discrepancy between those who need treatment and those who receive it, and Mental Health First Aid for Veterans will help us meet those real needs."

"If you serve in the military, you are trained in First Aid and learn how to dress a battle wound. Yet when it comes to mental illness, it is an invisible injury and, too often, we don't know what to do," said Tom Tarantino, Chief Policy Director for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "When veterans and their families are able to identify mental illness and help others get treatment, it reduces stigma and promotes recovery. Programs like Mental Health First Aid are so important and necessary to empowering troops, veterans and families with information to help address and respond to invisible injuries."

"Life after military service comes with challenges that sometimes require us to seek help for ourselves or our family members. We know all too well that the consequences of untreated mental illness impact are dire with often devastating impact – for our veterans, their families and community," said Theresa Buchanan, Youth Initiatives Director for the National Military Family Association. "But knowing how to seek that help – where to begin – can be an enormous obstacle for many.  That's why programs like Mental Health First Aid are so important.  With treatment, families can get better and our nation is stronger."

Mental Health First Aid for Veterans trainings will begin in Dubuque, Iowa, on April 30; Brookfield, Wis., on May 2; and Dallas, Texas, on May 16, with additional courses to be added across the country. Mental Health First Aid USA is managed, operated, and disseminated by the National Council, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

For more information, visit www.MentalHealthFirstAid.org.

The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America's community mental health and substance use treatment organizations. Together with our 2,200 member organizations, we serve our nation's most vulnerable citizens — the more than 8 million adults and children living with mental illnesses and substance use disorders. We are committed to ensuring all Americans have access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery and full participation in community life. Learn more at www.TheNationalCouncil.org.

Contact: Heather Cobb at 202-684-7457 x277  
heatherc@thenationalcouncil.org or
Kirk Monroe at 202-207-3646
kmonroe@prismpublicaffairs.com

SOURCE National Council for Behavioral Health




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