The Main Stream

Jan 17, 2013 7:45 PM by John Overall

VA hospital hosts mental health training for vets

The Community partnership of Southern Arizona is hosting a special Military Mental Health First Aid training session in Tucson this week. It's just the third such training class in the United States put on by trainers from the Arizona National Guard and the Arizona Coalition for Military Families.

Volunteers, service members, veterans and their families, and community members were are attending. 12 hours over two days focusing on recognizing mental illness and how to connect individuals in crisis situations with professional care. "Give people a better understanding of what to look for, give them more confidence that they can be a person who can provide support to someone even if you're not a trained mental health clinician," said Nicola Winkel of the Coalition for Military Families.

This type of training is needed more than ever considering a record 349 active military men and women committed suicide in 2012. Paul Thomas is a Vietnam vet who has live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for 40 years. He's now a Mental Health Volunteer with the VA. "Quite frankly the Tucson VA is the leading edge in terms of dealing with mental health and particularly post traumatic stress disorder," Thomas said.

He knows what our troops are coping with, but Thomas also knows he needs to learn more about mental health issues in order to better serve those trying to cope with life after war. "Hopefully the training I'm getting here today and tomorrow will significantly increase both my understanding of mental health issues and then obviously the first aid impact and functions of that mental health," said Thomas.

Mental Health Professionals say those attending these classes will walk away with the tools they need to help save a life. "They will, from a lay person standpoint, it's sort of akin to CPR on the physical side. You're not training someone to be a nurse or a Dr. You are training them how to provide that initial aid.

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