DETROIT (CBS Detroit) Health officials say the stigma surrounding mental illness often prevents people from seeking help or even acknowledging they need help.

Common Ground and Beaumont Health System are joining forces to try to fix that.

The health system and the community support network are teaming up to sponsor Mental Health First Aid, an internationally recognized training program designed to give non-mental health professionals the tools to recognize and respond to people who may be in a mental health crisis.

“Too often people who are living with mental illness are afraid to say anything because of the stigma associated with it,” said Jim Perlaki, vice president of external relations at Common Ground, in a press release.  “This training will help to destigmatize mental illness and having people trained with these skills will make for a healthier community because more people will get connected with the right resources when they need them.”

Perlaki said Mental Health First Aid is for mental illness what First Aid is to physical distress like choking, heart attack or lack of breath.

“If you have been trained in American Red Cross first aid and CPR, you were taught how to respond to the needs of someone who is having a medical emergency,” said William Miles, M.D. , director of Psychiatric Inpatient Services, Beaumont Health System , and associate professor of Psychiatry at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine.

“In Mental Health First Aid training, you learn how to recognize and respond if someone is having a mental health crisis. Just like Red Cross first aid, mental health first aid training may help save lives by helping to connect people to professional mental health care.”

Participants will learn how to provide initial help to someone showing symptoms of mental illness or in a mental health crisis (severe depression, psychosis, panic attack, suicidal thoughts and behaviors) until appropriate professional help can be engaged.  The training is open to educators, school administrators, human resource professionals, the faith communities, policy makers, primary health care providers, first responders, police and fire personnel, security personnel, family members or caring community residents.

The $75 fee for the two-day training includes registration, a workbook, snacks and lunch.  The next session is scheduled for Monday, May 14 and 21 at Beaumont Hospital in Troy (ground floor, classroom 5) from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For questions or to register, call or email Joan Roberts at 248-451-3733 or

To view the entire Mental Health First Aid class schedule, visit


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