Educating the community about mental illness

By Erika Mahoney

November 15, 2013 Updated Nov 15, 2013 at 7:17 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier is working to educate the community about warning signs for mental illness and reduce the stigma that is associated with mental illness.

The association is holding training classes on mental health first aid. The classes focus on how to respond in the event of a crisis.

Instructor Sarah Bowie said recently, there has been increased interest in the class. She said it may have to do with recent violence that is sometimes associated with people battling mental illness.

But, Bowie said more often, people afflicted with mental illness are the victims, not the perpetrators.

"What mental health first aid does is really combat the stigma, looks at the facts behind mental illness, some of the signs and symptoms," Bowie said.

Bowie said recently, a lot of the students are teachers. On Friday, the program director of Verde View Equestrian Center, a therapeutic riding center, said she believes empathy is key.

"I don't see that [violence] in my line of work," Lori Piccirilli said. "But I see the headlines in the newspaper like everyone else, and I think education and understanding and empathy is really important, and that's one of the reasons why I am here." 

Bowie said if someone is showing signs of mental illness symptoms, the best thing to do is talk to them.

"Talk with them, approach them, know the individual, meet in a quiet place, somewhere they feel comfortable. Talk with them, about how they're feeling, really touch on their mood," said Bowie.

The class is eight hours and is contained to a single day. At the end, students are certified as a mental health first responders.

For more information on the training, or local resources for help click here.