Marshall Islands Epidemiology and Prevention Initiatives (MIEPI) made history following its certification of 16 mental health first aid responders earlier this month at the College of Marshall Islands — the first such course taught in RMI.
The unique program was developed by Australian couples Betty Kitchiner and Anthony Jorm in 2001 and has been used globally to cater to different groups within the community, including police officers, firefighters, veterans, adults, elderly and young people.
Meet ALGEE the koala. The curriculum’s mascot ALGEE is a life-saving acronym used when responders engage with people in mental distress.
Unlike the first aid approach taught by Marshall Islands Red Cross Society, where responders tend to physical and heat injuries, mental health first aid focuses more on the dialogue between a trained responder and the affected person, at which time the person would utilize ALGEE: assess for risk of suicide or harm, listen non-judgmentally, give reassurance and information, encourage appropriate professional help, and encourage self-help and other support strategies.
Throughout the course, instructors Maybelline Ipil and Molly Murphy revealed various stages of mental disorders, from mild anxiety, depression, psychosis to severe schizophrenia, all the while reminding trainees only to help without endangering oneself.
“You guys will not be able to help everyone, and we are not teaching you to diagnose others,” the two said. “But, after going through this course, you will, if you are confident, be able to save a life by talking with those you’ve identified as suffering mental health issues.”
The ultimate goal of the initiative is to break the stigma associated with mental health issues.
Read more about this in the July 12, 2019 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.