The course was given by personnel of the Middle Peninsula-Northern Neck Community Services Board. It included a thick book on the subject, slide presentations, practical exercises and five videos.
The Rev. Mike Moffitt, pastor of Light of Christ, said the church has a number of outreach programs that may cause its parishioners to come into contact with peoples’ problems. The mental health course was just one of several the church is having to give them some basic knowledge of the problems they may encounter. Another course will have to do with Hospice and what it is all about.
“As a church we want to be prepared to reach out into all areas of life and know the resources in the community,” Moffitt noted.
Lisa Brandy and Tammy Oberndorfer led the day-long training session.
The pair covered many topics in detail but a central strategy is to have an action plan when one encounters a young person with apparent mental difficulties. The first step is to assess the risk of harm the youngster may be to himself or others while listening to them in a non-judgmental fashion. The youth will need reassurance and information. He or she may also need professional health or self-help strategies, they said.
In one of the videos shown at the session a man, apparently in his 30s, told of trying to kill himself by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. He said he was really of two minds at the time and if only somebody had initiated a talk with him, he would never have done it.
Brandy and Oberndorfer led the group in an exercise that demonstrated the disturbing effects of auditory hallucinations. As two participants engaged in conversation, a third person would whisper into one of the talkers ear.
One of the problems of spotting youth with mental problems is that they manifest themselves in ways very similar to normal youthful attitudes. If in doubt, ask them what’s going on.