Mental Health First Aid Receives Bipartisan Support in Congress

By Victoria Kim 04/17/15

Democrats and Republicans displayed rare cooperation in putting forth new grants for mental health treatment.

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A bipartisan bill that would expand mental health first aid training was introduced on Thursday by Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Business Wire reports.

The Mental Health First Aid Act would authorize $20 million in grants for Mental Health First Aid trainings around the country. The intent behind the Mental Health First Aid program is to help the public—including emergency responders, police officers, educators, primary care professionals, and students—identify, understand, and respond to mental health issues and disorders. The program teaches recognition of risk factors and warning signs of mental health and substance abuse problems, and how to connect people with help in their communities.

“Mental health has been ignored in our country for far too long,” Matsui said in a statement. “We must increase mental health awareness and knowledge, and decrease stigma.”

Mental Health First Aid has done just that, according to peer-reviewed studies published in Australia, where the program originated. The studies show that the program reduces the stigma, or "social distance," created by negative attitudes and perceptions of individuals with mental illnesses.

Nearly 375,000 Americans have already been trained to help the one in five people in the U.S. who live with mental illnesses and addictions, according to president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, Linda Rosenberg.

Rosenberg commended Jenkins and Matsui for supporting the Mental Health First Aid program and called it a step toward advancing behavioral health care in the nation.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr