Mental Health First Aid should be free for everyone, local advocates tell Texas legislators

SAN ANTONIO – Mental Health First Aid teaches how to care for people during a crisis until professional help arrives. However, that training is only free for some, and local advocates are trying to change that.

“Thirteen years ago, (mental health) resources were not what they are today,” Greg Watson said.

Watson knows because it was 13 years ago that he lost his dad to suicide and slipped down that path himself.

He said San Antonio’s Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) helped save him.

That’s why he became an AFSP board member, fighting to create even more resources, like Mental Health First Aid.

“That teaches people how to identify an individual that is struggling with mental health issues and support them at that peer level,” Watson explained.

Mental Health First Aid is a little like Child Protective Services in the way that anybody can get certified to do that ground-level first aid work before mental health professionals get there.

The problem is it’s not free for everyone right now.

“Because it’s an independently owned and developed curriculum, there’s a cost involved in that because they need to be able to provide further research and run the program,” Watson explained.

Currently, the program is only free for educators and health professionals.

That’s why Watson and 34 other local advocates met with 60 legislators in Austin last month to push for grant funding to make the training accessible for everyone.

They’re supporting HB 2059, which would essentially expand the list of people to get free training.

“These grants already exist to help alleviate the costs to get people trained to support that peer level. Can we please just expand who falls under the eligibility list?” Watson said.

He said the legislators were very receptive, and he’s hopeful more people will soon be able to help those in a mental health crisis.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the AFSP has a campaign called Talk Away the Dark, which includes many programs the public can utilize.

For more information, head to their website.

If you’re struggling with mental health or suicidal thoughts, you can anonymously call 988 or text TALK to 741-741.

Also on From Living in Silence to Living Out Loud | Mental Wellness

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