California Mental Health Helpline supports the advancement of research as well as the increased coverage of mental health issues in the news and local events. We strive to keep this stream of updates available to those who wish to keep up and learn more about personal experiences in the field as well. We also hope this information is able to inspire, inform and help readers.

For additional resources, please contact California Mental Health Helpline online or at 855-559-3923.

Free mental health first aid saves lives in more ways than one

Free mental health first aid saves lives in more ways than one

Someone in a subway car clutches their chest and falls to the ground, struggling to breathe. Another person begins choking on their dinner and needs CPR. An ambulance is on its way, but some people know how to help the person in peril and perform CPR or keep the person calm until help arrives.

Not everyone receives training for emergency first aid such as CPR, but many have the knowledge and ability to help. Sadly, the same cannot be said regarding first aid for mental health issues. Many would not know what to do if someone was having a mental health crisis on the subway beyond calling the police. This is why the Mental Health Association of New York State –MHANYS—has obtained a grant to offer the first aid training for free.

Imagine the scenario, a stranger on the subway mumbling under their breath and frequently looking from left to right. Maybe a neighbor sounds disturbed in their apartment and you notice alarming sounds and shouting — they believe the government is listening to their thoughts and are losing control. In San Francisco, California in 2013 a man began to pace back and forth, freaking out above ground. He then proceeded to strip off his clothes and run below ground to the subway, assaulting passengers and causing problems. A video recording went viral and the man was put in for mental evaluation. If people had known what to do before the event escalated, the situation could have been avoided. Basic training can help to spot the signs of a mental crisis and keep the person non-threatening until help arrives.

The program

Awarded by the state, this grant allows MHANYS to hold training classes for free. They will offer a 12-hour mental health first aid training course, focusing on the action needed for someone with a mental condition or crisis. It is difficult to understand what is going on with someone who is having a mental crisis. Unlike with the ABC’s of CPR, where people know to check the airways, breathing and circulation, many are unsure of what to do for a mental crisis.

This training can help people deal with a tense and uncomfortable situation, when a person is having a mental crisis. As writes, this training, “Builds mental health literacy; helping the public identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness.” There is a stigma with mental illness that people tend to avoid. Less people want to speak about and understand the effects of schizophrenia or the symptoms of major bipolar mood swings.

The idea something painful is happening to an individual mentally and not being aware of how to help is frightening. John Richter, director of Public Policy for MHANYS said, “This can help demystify some of that by talking about mental health the same way we talk about physical illness.” Richter is referring to the stigma of mental health and hopes this training will break down the barriers between healthy and mentally ill individuals.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness — NAMI — states around 61.5 million Americans experience a mental illness each year. Many of these illnesses are treatable, yet people may still feel ostracized because of an illness or disorder. The training covered in this program will certify an individual for three years.

What the program will do

The program offers mental health first aid training courses for adults and students. The adult course will focus on teaching the proper first aid emergency care and the student course will focus on intervention and how to help friends with an illness. The four main points the MHANYS website, that will be the main focus of the training are:

  • Gaining knowledge of the warning signs and risks for a variety of mental health disorders
  • Covering a plan consisting of five steps including the skills, resources and knowledge to understand the situation and helping the individual in crisis with the appropriate interventions
  • Understanding that mental illnesses are becoming more common in the U.S. and the need to decrease the stigma
  • Education of the available treatment programs, support groups and aid available to those with mental illness


This is an excellent opportunity to become equipped with skills and knowledge to help those with a mental illness and save bystanders who could get caught in the middle of a traumatizing episode. If you or a loved on exhibit signs or symptoms of a mental illness and have interest in treatment, please call us at 855-559-3923.

What Becomes of the O.D.D. child?

What Becomes of the O.D.D. child?

May 3, 2015 through May 9, 2015, is children’s mental health awareness week, dedicated to informing people of all ages about the vast spectrum of mental health disorders in children. For some children, an average day can be excruciatingly long. Especially when they had to go the grocery store with their mom and there is nothing for them to do there. Driving home and being told they now have to clean their room, the tantrum starts. There may be crying, screaming, time-outs executed and apologies given out. Overall, maybe 15 to 20 minutes for some; timing may vary. However, some children continue to throw tantrums for smaller incidents. Some will continue to harbor hostile behavior towards parents or authority figures for being told to put down their toy. This can be more than just a spoiled child. This can be a disorder that compels them to have such a strong defiance towards adults.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder –ODD—is a disorder starting in childhood, which involves defiant, negative hostile and disobedient behavior towards adults or figures of authority.  This behavior needs to be continuous for six months before a child can be diagnosed with the disorder. Children with ODD will frequently argue with adults, lose temper, defying rules of adults or authority figures, choosing actions they know will annoy others and being spiteful or vindictive.

These symptoms are easily viewed as just a rebellious period in children, but can continue and increase in intensity. Children with ODD believe that they are right and the adults are wrong. The key factor in discovering if a child has ODD is by seeing a continuous behavior of anger and disobedience that does not stop, whereas other kids grow out of it or calm down.

The treatment for these symptoms is mainly found in therapy and the interaction of parents to child. There are also many self-help groups that can help parents in the similar situation to help each other out. writes, “Very little research has been conducted in the use of medications for oppositional defiant disorder. Therefore, medication is not recommended as a treatment option for this problem.” As with many other mental disorders and illnesses, there is no single cure-all method for ODD. There are however ways to manage it and learn to live with it.

There have been four tips listed by as recommendations for interacting with ODD:

  1. Respond to this behavior without anger and pick your battles
  2. Be clear and concise with the child, follow through with what is said
  3. Do not take things personally; the behavior is about the child and not the parent — the child will lash out to familiar authority figures regardless
  4. Be a parent and not the best friend: discipline and do not become a friend just so the child will stop throwing a tantrum

While these tips are helpful, the real question is: What happens to those who continue to live with this disorder into adulthood?

What happens post treatment?

In most cases, ODD will continue on into adulthood for the child. Adults with ODD may continue to express angry behavior often and can continually claim that they are right, when someone else says they are wrong. They may even feel alone or that no one understands them. ODD has been found to be more of a subset of another conduct disorder such as ADHD. Russell Barkley, Ph.D. explains the cause for ODD in adults, “It’s unclear. It could be that a pattern of rebellion sets in when children with ADHD are constantly at odds with adults who are trying to make them behave in ways that their executive function deficit.”

In most cases, ODD is a manageable condition intermixed with another mental disorder. It mainly starts in childhood and is connected with another disorder, ADHD, which is why adults may not experience it as much. This is not to disprove that ODD can develop the child’s brain in such a way that they continue to express irrational obstinance to other adults later on in life. The key to learning how to manage these mental disorders is to seek treatment and diagnosis from a doctor, forms of therapy, family members understanding the condition and medication. Utilizing these resources, adults with ODD have learned mechanisms to cope with the mental illness.