Mental Health First Aid Workshop Held At Laurel Park
The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, via the Horsemen’s Counseling program, on June 13 at Laurel Park facilitated a daylong workshop on Mental Health First Aid, a program that teaches participants how to provide support for persons in need. It was attended by MTHA and Maryland Jockey Club employees, backstretch workers, trainers and exercise riders.
The program, offered through the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, is about “teaching people to notice when something is not right” with another person, the presenters said. Mental Health First Aid providers do not diagnose themselves or others, but rather observe changes in a person’s behavior and listen non-judgmentally, according to the program. “What we are asking you to do is be noticers,” the presenters said.
The program notes that it is important for an individual to consider his or her safety before engaging in the MHFA action plan.
Some takeaways from the workshop, also attended by some Pimlico horsemen, include:
Self-care is necessary for those who provide mental health assistance because it helps individuals become more effective, promotes their own mental health, can impact how a person navigates a mental health challenge, and can support a person on the road to recovery.
Though one in five people in the United States deal with mental health disorders, and more than half of the population over a lifetime, there is a stigma about discussing mental health.
The Mental Health First Aid action plan is titled “ALGEE,” which has five components: assess for risk of harm or suicide; listen non-judgmentally; give reassurance and information; encourage appropriate professional help; and encourage self-help and other support strategies.
The MHFA program lists the following mental health disorders: depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, bipolar, psychosis, and eating disorders. It points out risk factors and the potential crises for each one.
Signs and symptoms to look for with a variety of disorders are declining personal hygiene, cuts or bruises, withdrawing from family and friends, absenteeism, odd or erratic behavior, increasing self-blame or self-criticism, distorted body image, thoughts racing or mind going blank, increasing sadness, hopelessness or despair, increasing worry, and anger or rage. Early intervention can prevent symptoms from becoming more serious.
The Laurel workshop specifically discussed some of the factors and stresses that can contribute to mental health issues that occur in but are not limited to the horseracing industry including seven-day-a-week work schedules, language barriers, jockeys making weight, and substance abuse.
Presenters provided participants with information on the local Anne Arundel County Crisis Response System, which offers telephone triage for behavioral health needs, mobile crisis teams, crisis intervention teams, linkage to psychiatric treatment services, crisis stabilization, and community education services. The number is 410-768-5522.