Inside the Margins
Inside the Margins

Episode 82 · 3 months ago

Interview With Mental Health First Aid Trainer Krysta Smith


On this episode we speak with the Program Coordinator of the Western NY Rual Area Health Ed Center Krysta Smith. She is a Trainer in Mental Health First Aid and explains what it means to be a Mental Health First Aider.

Marginalized groups can be the target of negative beliefs, behaviors, or judgments from others. On this show, we seek out marginalized voices and perspectives and tackle some of the conflicts and issues these groups face. Now is the time to have your voice heard. This is Inside the Margins. Hello and welcome to Inside the Margins. I'm Matt Wilson, and again I have another great guest this week on the show. Now, we always talk about try to represent underserved communities, and you know a lot of times we do talk about, you know, people who are female, people who are the gender differentials, ray, stuff like that. This time we're gonna go into the mental health area because I know we don't do a lot of talking about that. And I experienced a great class with the person who I'm sitting across from right now, so I decided to speak with their regards to mental health. Her name is Christine Smith. Crystal. How are you today, I'm good, Matt, Thanks for having me, Thank you for being here. I appreciate number one. You did an awesome job at the class that I took. It was it was informative. It was definitely opened my eyes to some things that I was not aware of. So, what is the name of the organization that you that you work for? I worked for Western New York Rural Area Health Education Center. We call it Rural A heck, for sure, it's a mouthful, Yes, yes it is. So how long have you been doing that? Um? I have been there for just a little over six months. As soon as I started, I immediately got trained in mental health first aid to be an instructor. So I've been training for about six months. Excellent, excellent, and like I said, that class is fantastic. Now it's funny. Uh. The reason why I bond with you so quickly is you have a communications background also, correct, I do. I went to GCC for communications before I moved out of state. Little radio two with you. Yeah, I worked in radio for about five years before I had kids and realized it was a lot of a lot of nights and weekends. Well, I'm glad that you're doing what you do now because I think, like I said, you do a fantastic job. So just real quick. Some of the things we learned about were recognizing signs that people are are going through stuff, that people are are experiencing some sort of issue, are trauma or mental health or anything. What are some of the things that you have seen or experience in the field where uh, this became important to you. UM. I had a brother who died by suicide, and UM, after a few years of working in nonprofits in the arts sector, which was sort of like a transition from radio and working in music, I worked in the arts and then UM, after he passed away, I really started to rethink what I was doing. Why I got into nonprofit in the first place was to help people, and my interest in helping people sort of took a different hearn and the role at real a heck um became available and that was really appealing to me. UM. Also, I am a person who lives with anxiety, so UM it helps me. Yeah. So that's definitely a very tragic story, and I'm sorry to hear that. I know you you did share that with the class as well. UM. So I know sometimes when you live through things like that, it does heighten your awareness to those kind of things and also makes you want to do things to help other people to avoid the thing that you went through exactly. So it was it was one of the things that you talked about, and I want to give everything away because you know, you can actually hire these folks to do an intern in class for you. That's true, So I'm not gonna get everything away. But one of the things that you talked about, which was, um, I guess hit me, hit me, was the fact that when you talk...

...about like suicide, you have to use the term kill yourself. You can't just say, you know, do you want to hurt yourself or do harm? Why? Why is that so important? Um? Actually, directly asking a person if they are thinking about killing themselves will deter that person from doing the act. Um. Again, I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, so I don't understand the logic behind it. I just know facts and statistics, and a person is less likely to you know, there's sort of this myth that if you talk to someone who is suicidal about suicide, that it will put the thought in their head. But it's actually the opposite, and I think, um, in my opinion, it is asking that person that direct question is sort of breaking the stigma of talking about how they're feeling, and it's also showing them that you care enough to ask you. You know, if you're in that place you're thinking nobody is going to care, but just asking somebody that question makes them think, oh my gosh, there's somebody that actually cares if I'm here or not, and it gives them the opportunity to talk about what's going on. Right. So it's it's tough because I know a lot of people when they come across people who are experiencing things like extreme anxiety or depression or even suicidal thoughts, they tend to want to stay out of it. They don't want to intervene. They don't because because it's it's a lot to deal with. What do you what would you say? What would your words to those kind of folks be in regards to, you know, possibly being there for someone who may need them. You know, one of the things that mental health First aid UM teach us people, besides how to recognize the science and symptoms, is really UM a little bit of background and information about some of the most common mental health disorders. And knowing that information UM really makes you realize is that people with mental health challenges, or someone who's experiencing a mental health crisis is probably more afraid of you than you are of them. You know, I think that a lot of people think, you know, some of those negative words about people who are having a mental health challenge as like a scary or intimidating, and really we're all just people. Maybe some of us are having the worst day than others. But yeah, I want to I want to dive into some more stuff. We're gonna take a quick break, and when we come back, we're going to talk more about UM. If you want to get involved with it yourself, if you want to become a mental health first aid er, and and maybe take a step further just instead of just being aware, maybe being someone who knows at least a little bit of how to react when they noticed these things. Take a quick break where we're right back. This is Inside the Margins. Do you have a topic that you would like to discussed on inside the Margins. We would love to hear from you. Please send your thoughts, comments or questions to inside Margins at gmail dot com. All right, we are back inside the Margins and I'm still hanging out with Krista. Krista, thank you for hanging out with me. I appreciate it today absolutely So before we jump into some of them more deeper stuff, what do you do in your free time? Because a lot of the stuff that you do, what this is really deep and you know it can it can stick in your head. So what do you do like to relax? Um? I am a painter, Yes, I actually um sell. My work at a shop in Perry, Um called the levin Covington. It's on Covington Street. Um. But I spend a lot of time painting, hanging out with my kids. I live in a log cabin in the middle of the woods. That's kind of cool. Yeah, and it's not usually a place that a woman lives, right, Yeah, you're pretty tough. I cabin in the wood. It's not bad. That's probably in the winter with nice little fire going is probably right. Yeah, I can dig it. I could dig all right, all right. So again, Um, I work for a... full time. I do radio part time. And the college that I work for, I was given an opportunity to attend the class that you you and you're in the folks that you who you work with train If someone wanted to learn how to do this also, if they wanted to become a mental uh mental health first aid or a first respond or whatever you want to call that, how would they get involved? How would they do that, okay. UM, Well, you could visit our website, which is our dash a heck a h EC dot org um slash Mental Health First State and you can find information about the classes on their UM. Also there is a national website UM. You can go to m h f A dot org and you can find classes in your area. I will say we cover UM all fourteen counties of Western work from like Wayne, Ontario student all the way over, so so I can train anywhere in the area. And we have free grant funding to be able to offer these classes to the public. So a lot of times people charge for the classes. So if you're interested in learning about mentalth first aid and you maybe don't necessarily have the funds to take a class, we offer some classes to the public UM, but we do a lot of training through community centers, whether it's a chamber of college like GCC UM or Also I'm additionally certified to train UM fire and e MS veterans. Yeah and UM oh public safety so police officers. So yeah, so I am trying to get some of those trains trainings done before the end of the year. Also, it's fantastic, that's fantastic, So it working in this field, and like I said, there's a lot of uh, I guess tough issues that you cover in this in this training and what you teach people how to deal with. And I know we still had fun in your class, were still you when you could keep it light, You keep it light. But then we got into it we have to get into and I know sometimes when we get into the deep stuff, it's it's hard for people to to even deal with, even in the class. But it's got to be a rewarding feeling to to to do this, you know, after experience what you experience in life, and this is kind of how you're giving back and you're also helping others who may come across these same things. Yeah, definitely, you know, I think I I'm definitely a lighthearted, light spirited kind of person. I always try to get the jokes in when I can, because there there's definitely nothing funny about a mental health crisis. But I take the opportunity to at least make fun of myself. I find somebody like in the last to joke with when I can. Um, you know, it's hard to sit there and just be serious or sad or concerned. For I mean, the training is in all with breaks it's like six hours so as full days of serious stuff. So yeah, we try to keep it light when we can. So your experience at the at the company that you work for, you, like I said, you've been there and now you train, UM, how has your experience there been? How have we just working with the people there and dealing with the people, interact with people that you train. How's that been for you? Hasn't been pretty positive for you? Yeah? Well, let me UM take this opportunity to give you a little bit more information about our organization. Um SO Rural a HECK is part of a national UM Area Health Education Center and we started in the seventies UM and our...

...organization was the first one to UM start in New York where the oldest a HECK in New York. And we focus on filling in the gaps in UM health, healthcare education, professional development in underserved areas, so are our a HECK. Rural a HECK obviously focuses on more of the rural areas in Western New York, which you know, most people think of New York and they think of New York City or even out here they think of Buffalo Rock. Yeah, and there's a lot of underserved communities in the rural parts. Yeah yeah, so UM we we partnered with UM Erie Niagara. They they have Erie Niagara County have an a heck of their own and the state offices run out of UM. You b but UM I I am doing the mental health first aid for them as well. UM and our office covers four main focus areas. Besides mental health is part of our workforce development area where we do continuing education. We also focus on education and that's UM grade seven through twelve, but also into college. We have a scholarship program that we do called a HEX scholars that encourages students to UM look at careers and social determinants of health and focus on maybe UM when they're done with school, working in a rural area. And then we have a technology focus where we help hospitals through a grant that we have with the FCC UM to get funding for UM subsidized internet so they're not paying as much for better internet. Right. That's great. So we're gonna take another break. When we come back, I want to talk about life kind of post COVID. So we're coming through this COVID nineteen pandemic, a lot of people are saying it's the end of it. Some people saying, we're so kind of in it, but the worst of it seems to be past. We're kind in this this gray zone of COVID right now. But I know two things I've kind of risen during COVID. People have who have issues with mental health and dealing with what's what was happening, and also drug use, And I know we kind of touched on both of those with the training, So I want to ask the questions about that. We'll take a break first. We're right back. This is Inside the Margins. Do you have a topic that you would like discussed on Inside the Margins. We would love to hear from you. Please send your thoughts, comments, more questions to Inside Margins at gmail dot com. Welcome back to Inside the Margins. Still hanging out here with Krista, who is just chilling out with me on a on a pleasant day. Thank you so much for hanging out. I appreciate it absolutely, I'm glad to be here. That's awesome. So before we took the break, we were talking about kind of the world. Now we're kind of getting back to normal. People are are beginning to go back into the office. People are beginning to go back into school. We're doing a lot more in person stuff than we were even a year ago. But a lot of people are still having some anxiety and some issues coming back into the I guess real world post COVID, and some people don't want to come back into the real world, or some people deal with it by self medicating as in alcohol and drugs. Uh. Is that something that you cover with this as well? Yeah. Part of um SO mental Health First Aid is UH, it's really it's a skilled skills based training. Mental Health First State is a skills based training that focuses on recognizing signs and symptoms of mental health disorders, but also UM substance use disorders. And not only do we cover in the training UM how to UM handle mental health challenge or crisis, but we also talk about substance use crisis, substance use disorders and UM. A lot of time times some of those signs and symptoms sort...

...of overlap that they may be co occurring disorders and UM. You know, I think that the algae, which I'm sure you remember from the training our heads, yes, is the five step action plans. So as you work through the steps of Algae, you're sort of um really just allowing this person to open up to you, so you're not guessing what's wrong. You're giving them the opportunity to tell you. So in most cases, if if you know, everything works out is it's supposed to per our training, which of course very rarely doesn't go exactly how it doesn't in training, right because it's real life. But a person is going to tell you what's wrong, you know what what they're doing, and give you the opportunity to provide them with some resources. If that doesn't happen, you can at least, um you know, be somebody that a person can talk to if they can't talk to anybody else. You can provide them with information so that they can get help when they're ready. Um you know, if if you know, the worst case scenario is that you may be witness an overdose and you got information on a narcian training for me at your mental health for state training, you will at least have all of the tools that you need to help that person. If if you know, all they need is somebody to talk to and maybe that keeps them from developing a substance use disorder, then you also did an awesome job. So you know, we're just here to help until the professionals can get to run, right. I was gonna mention too, because I know that the mental health training and like the Narcan administration, there are two separate ones, but you do train on both of those. Correct. Yes, we we provide narcian try means in the community as well through UM program that's called OPEP that we offer UM. It's opioid. Oh Christine, my coworker is going to be upset if it's Opioid Prevention Education Project or maybe program, but I think it's project I. I hope I did her proud UM. But through her o PEP program UM we provide education on on Opioids UM for kids and teens, and we provide UM trainings for UM narcian to the community. We also have a lot of educational webinars and seminars and things like that. So that's awesome. That's awesome. So so if they take those trainings, they can people can learn how to be mental health first aiders. And also if it's too late to do that, if someone's already overdose or something, they can learn how to even help out in those situations. Yes, yep. They can learn to administer an ourcan and learn the recovery position. And I mean, I think most people already know how to call nine one one. But the only thing that we don't do is provide first aid training, first aid CPR. That's a whole different thing. Mental health, first aid, yes, first aid not right now. I don't know if that's coming in the future, but there's plenty of places that you can get the Red Crosses. Great, absolutely, Alright, We're gonna take our final break, and when we come back. The last thing I want to talk about is one thing that you did also stress in the training was noticing if you're having issues yourself, especially if you are going through training and it kind of triggers something in you. You know, you teach some things of how to recognize that yourself and even how to maybe even deal with that. So let's let's talk about that when we come back. We'll take a break first. This is Inside the Margins. Do you have a topic that you would... discussed on Inside the Margins. We would love to hear from you. Please send your thoughts, comments, more questions to Inside Margins at gmail dot com. All right, welcome back. We are here with CHRISTA. Smith. This is inside the Margins. And before we continue, I want just one more time if some people want to go to your website. With the website it is our dash A H E C dot org all right, and as there are a number of that people can call it as well if they want to get more information. Yes, our phone number is five eight five seven eight six six to seven. That's great. I think this is I think this is very important what you're doing. It's it's a lot of people are going through a lot, and some people even realize you're going through stuff, and it's just good to be aware and speaking of people not realizing it. Uh, you did cover that too, Pece. Some people you know themselves are dealing with in anxiety, some people themselves are dealing with the depression. And you even talk about recognizing that in yourself and even after the training, perhaps being triggered wall being trained and ways to address that. So, so if you could kind of experiment a little bit, if you could, okay, so um, the final step of algae, although it is a non linear plan, remember you can go you can do it in any orders, right, but for sake of creating an acronym. The final e of l G is encouraged self help. So UM, we talk a lot about debriefing after you UM provide mental health first aid to someone. And what I mentioned earlier that my hobby is painting. UM. So that is one way that I self help or self care. UM. I spend time painting, and I think that a lot of times when we do a training, one of the first things that we ask everybody as we do our introductions is give us your name, tell us what you do for work, and tell us your favorite hobby. And that hobby a lot of times is going to be your go to self help thing. So if it's something that you haven't done in a while and you're feeling stressed out, or you're you know, you're feeling anxious about work or family or whatever it may be, you know, take some time to do that hobby or that thing that you like to do. UM. Whether it's another hobby of mine is running, So UM, I try to run every day, and yeah, I've been slacking on I'm not gonna lie, but at least take a walk UM or do something outside and then paint, which you know, that's a big process. Which I think is why I do the running in the walking because all I need to sneakers. I don't. I don't need to prepare to run or walk. I just need some shoe and go. Yeah, the painting, you know, there's prep and there's clean up, and there's kids and pets to consider in that process. So you know, it's nice to have a hobby and a backup activity, something something physically active, something where you can use your mind. Um. You know a lot of people are like the bubble bath thing. Yeah that's not for me. Yeah, I need to move my body and I need to use my mind. So I think a lot of a lot of people feel that same way. But I would assume a hobby that's probably not good as if you indulge in like using alcohol, drugs, right, Yeah, that's that's not um, that's self medicating. That's something that we don't want to encourage people to do. Yeah, you want to definitely deal with things in another way. I just wanted to make sure because oh, my hobbies, that's probably not really somebody said once that they like to go shopping. That's also probably not a good way to deal with your Yeah, Frances could give you more stress, right, I want to avoid that. Yeah. Yeah, I've told you before. I like to cook...

...and stuff like that. So that's that's what I try. I try to do. Just it relaxed to me. Want to cook food and I'm as high on the grill, so I kind of enjoyed doing that or playing with the kids something like that. It's a good time for me. That's good. So another important thing I want to I want to mention is that you also give resources to people, a lot of numbers, a lot of things that they can call if they are experiencing uh some issues or trauma and then you need to talk to somebody. Can they find that stuff on your website? Also? Yes? So, UM, just recently the UM nine eight eight, the number nine eight eight became available to people. So I think actually during our training, it wasn't live yet, it was not it was just beginning to Yeah, so we were taught. I think we even talked about how it was coming soon. It was like two weeks away or something when we had our training. So. UM, so now people can call or text nine eight in a crisis, and UM a lot of times if you call nine one one that they'll send police. Um. If you call nine eight eight, they might send someone, but it'll it'll be something. You know, you get the opportunity to talk to someone, tell them what you're you know, maybe you're having a mental health challenge, maybe you're feeling too acidal. Um they'll send an appropriately trained person to help you in your situation. Or maybe you just need to talk to someone and they won't send anyone at all, so they'll give you resources, just like we try to do as mental health first daters. Because all of those resources that we give to people like I know when we did the school training, excuse me, when we did the school training, uh, the g c C training, we UM provided information about the resources on campus, on the main campus and then UM different county resources. So when we do a training, depending on what county it is, before I go to the class, I will collect all of that information to that local area so that I can give it to the people. So when they leave that class, UM, I send them an email and it has links to all the local resources that they can refer people to. Excellent. That's fantastic. And one more time before we have to get out of here, I just remind everyone if they are interested in perhaps doing a class or learning more about your organization, or just want to talk to somebody about anything like this. What's the number they can call? Which website one? We're time um. Our phone number is five eight five seven eight six six to seven five and our website is our dash a heck a h ec dot org. Excellent, Chrissa. I think what you and your organization are doing provides a service that is really important. It helps people understand perhaps what's going on with themselves and also gives a chance to people who may want to be there for someone in their time and need an opportunity to know how to kind of do that. I think that's a great tool to have in your you know, deck, in order to use to help people. So I think what you guys do is fantastic and thank you for sharing that with us today. Thank you for having me Matt. Talk to Christa, give her a call, Go to their website. It may not be Christa, I thank you, somebody, get somebody else, but everyone there is fantastic. Talk to them if you want to learn more about this, and if you're interested in being in mental health first eight or we're just starting more about it yourself and you're seeing, If something that you may be interested in, you just get a call by the website. Thanks so much, Christa, thank you, Matt inside the Margins. We'll see you next week on Monday, three o'clock. I'm wondering point nine. Come excited,.

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