Learn the ‘CPR’ of Mental Health

People learn CPR. They learn how to administer first aid. Maybe you’ve been trained.

But do you know how to help someone experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis?

If you don’t, the San Diego County Suicide Prevention Council and Optum San Diego are offering two courses where you can learn. The trainings are free but space is limited and registration is required.

A Mental Health First Aid in Spanish will take place Thursday, May 28 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at United Way of San Diego County, 4699 Murphy Canyon Road in San Diego. On May 29, a Mental Health First Aid for Military and Veterans will be offered at the VA Mission Valley Clinic, 8810 Rio San Diego Dr. Each course lasts eight hours.

“The courses help people identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance abuse disorders,” said Dona Dmitrovic, director of Consumer Affairs, Substance Use Disorders for Optum. “These are in-depth courses that provide skills, resources and knowledge to help people to connect with somebody who is in crisis and connect them to health care.”

Participants will learn how to identify different types of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse, as well as an action plan to follow when dealing with someone in crisis. Participants will also learn to assess a person for risk of harm or suicide, how to listen non-judgmentally, give reassurance and encourage the person to get professional help.

The Mental Health First Aid for Military and Veterans will focus on the unique experiences and needs of military members, veterans, their families and co-workers. While the United States Department of Veterans Affairs reports that about 22 veterans kill themselves every day, family members and people working with them and their families don’t know how to engage veterans with mental illness and addictions.

“Mental disorders are real medical conditions, and are as equally important to address as physical ailments,” said Alfredo Aguirre, MSW, Director of Behavioral Health for the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency. “It’s up to us to help recognize the signs and offer support and treatment for those who are suffering.”

The County is also working with Mental Health America of San Diego County to offer Mental Health First Aid classes to local community groups and organizations. To schedule a training, contact Araceli Sanchez at (619)-543-0412 Ext. 103 or at

The courses are part of Live Well San Diego, the County’s vision to improve the health and quality of life of local residents.

For details about the two courses and registration information, visit, or contact Optum San Diego at or at (619) 641-6355. For information in Spanish, email or call (619) 641-6252.

People experiencing a mental health crisis should call the County’s Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240 for free, confidential support available in 150 languages. Information is also available at

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact