Mental Health First Aid

CMHA June 2019



The local Canadian Mental Health Association says the North Okanagan has one of the highest suicide rates in the province, so the Vernon & District Branch is offering educational courses for individuals to support their loved ones with mental health concerns.

"We often don't know what exactly to say or how to say something that will help our loved ones," said Naaz Grewal, Community Educator for CMHA Vernon & District.  "This is why education on mental health and suicide is essential."
According to a 2016 Coroner's Report, British Columbia lost 599 people to suicide, with 134 of those individuals from the North Okanagan.

In any given year one in five Canadians will experience a mental health concern, yet many of those individuals will not seek out professional help,  instead turning to family, friends or even strangers for support.
"I think it's about time we make suicide awareness a national focus and short, concise, evidence-based intervention programs like Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), should play a key role," said Andrea Smith, ASIST participant.

"Knowing when to ask, how to ask, and how to identify a suicidal person's "turning point," or the element in their life that keeps them going such as a pet, or a family member, are some of the many skills I learned from taking the ASIST training," said Smith.

ASIST is a two-day course that teaches participants to recognize when someone may have thoughts of suicide and work with them to create a plan for their immediate safety. Both courses cost $225 per person and group and subsidized rates are available. The courses are not a replacement for professional therapy.

CMHA is also offering Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), a two-day training course that teaches participants how to help someone showing signs of a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. Participants learn to recognize early signs of specific mental health problems and how to provide assistance and support to the individual. 

"Taking Mental Health First Aid or Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training is just like giving CPR to someone before the professionals intervene," said Grewal.  "Anyone can make a difference to help prevent suicide.  Education helps us be ready, willing and able to provide the support a loved one needs," she said.

CMHA Vernon & District will be offering Mental Health First Aid on July 3 and 4 and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training on July 17 and 18.

For more information about the courses or how to register please visit the Canadian Mental Health Association-Vernon & District website ( or contact Naaz Grewal at