Wellness Wednesday: Mental Health First Aid

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Rapid City's finest recently completed training in Mental Health First Aid, learning how to respond to a mental health crisis.

“How to refer a person, recognize signs and symptoms, recognize that it is a mental health issue, and how to refer them to the proper resources,” said Debbie Siemonsma with Behavior Management Systems.

For the past 10 years, the Rapid City Police Department and Pennington County Sheriff's Office have made the training a requirement. Training Administrator Andy Becker said they were the first departments in the state to offer the training.

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"We understood the need for mental health training at that time, years ago, before it became even more popular nowadays," Becker said. "So we brought that in, knowing that our officers needed this training to interact with somebody that is going through a mental health crisis."

The training teaches how to handle crises from suicide threats to anxiety, and everything in between.

"Seven percent of the public that they come into contact with are going to have a mental health crisis," Siemonsma said. "It will help them to be safe, to stay safe, and recognize that a person's issue is mental health-related or addictions-related a little better." 

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After the Mental Health First Aid, officers have the option to continue their training in Crisis Intervention, which is an intense 40 hours, ending in Mental Health Certification.

"We have about probably half of our officers that are CIT certified in the training," Becker said. "We have several instructors that are CIT instructors that actually not only train our officers here but will go to the state academy in Pierre, South Dakota and train new officers as well.”

You don't have to be in law enforcement to be trained in Mental Health First Aid. The class is open to everyone. Speak with Behavior Management Systems for more information by calling 605-343-7262.

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