Mental Health First Aid a Dangerous Precedent

by | Feb 6, 2012

Philadelphia and other cities plan to train thousands to render mental health first aid. The plan is to conduct 12 hour courses for interested public, who will then take a certification test. Medical Doctors need to study for 8 years to become licensed physicians, yet, with this crash-course in mental health, the results will most likely be more catastrophic than what we are already witnessing in the mental health community.

What is the advantage to the psychiatric and the pharmaceutical industry in teaching the general public mental health first aid? These two groups have not been particularly known for their altruism and general spirit of doing good for others.
The APF (American Psychiatric Foundation) and the APIRE (American Psychiatric Institute for Research and Education) are Psychiatry’s “philanthropic” arms. Apparently the APA’s industry funding has recently been exposed and this group announced they would phase out the “visibly [pharmaceutical] industry-supported educational programs.”
Two men involved in this profession (Cosgrove, a clinical psychologist and Bursztajn, a psychiatrist) to their credit took it upon themselves to expose any ethical misconduct in the APF and APIRE. What did they discover? That both organizations were “stuffed” with executives tied to Big Pharma. In fact, 9 out of 16 board members of the APIRE had industry ties.
This in their philanthropic organizations! To trust that a mental health organization has your good (mental) health as their driving purpose would be naïve.
Dr. Arthur Evans, Behavior Health Commissioner of Philadelphia has hopes that a full 10% of the population will participate in their mental health first aid program. He hopes that people will be able to “identify and refer to professional help.”
This is becoming a bit clearer. If you are not familiar with the term “bird dogging,” here is a quick definition for the term, as used in business: “A junior salesperson who searches for potential customers that will be introduced to more senior salespersons.”
Businesses like real estate have been using it for years. Why not the mental health industry?
10% of the population driving potential customers in the doors of practicing psychiatrists would have enormous financial benefit to both the psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical companies providing their drugs.
And, in fact, an important part of this program is “when to know when you might be in over your head and need to call in a professional.”
Other cities have similar programs either operating or planned. This is a bit chilling. Especially as these “certified” lay people have the ability to render mental first aid, followed by a referral to a professional (a psychiatrist or psychologist, one would presume).
Could sharing ones upsets and daily trials with a co-worker trained in mental health first aid get you committed to a mental health facility? It is not out of the realm of possibility. The Baker Act in the state of Florida allows anyone to commit a person (even a child!) to a mental health facility against his or her will. In 2009 parents of a 7 year old boy were outraged to learn that their son had been subject to the Baker act.  He had been unruly in the class room, was removed by a policeman and was forced to spend the night in Morton Plant Hospital before being discharged the next day.
Mental health first aid should be viewed for what it is; a vast referral system benefiting the psychiatric profession.


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