North Carolina mental health professionals teach community members how to help people in crisis

GREENSBORO, NC (WGHP) — Getting an appointment with a therapist is harder than ever.

People are waiting months to see a professional as many deal with trauma from recent mass shootings in Texas and New York. Piedmont Triad organizations are taking matters into their own hands to provide care while you wait for help.

“The earlier the interventions we can provide to people, the better the outcomes for them,” said Ches Kennedy, who works at UNC Greensboro and Heidelberg United Church of Christ.

The university offers a resource to help you better understand how to help someone with a mental health problem. This is called mental health first aid. This is an eight hour course designed to teach you the basics of mental health.

Instructors share signs that someone might be struggling, such as a change in mood, hygiene, or eating habits.
Then you learn where to send that person for help.

Kennedy initiated the program at UNCG.

“Our advice center has 14 advisers,” he said. “We have 20,000 students…it’s really difficult for us to provide services to all these students.

Now he brings it to the community. The first session at Heidelberg United Church of Christ in Thomasville, where Kennedy is the acting pastor, was held on Tuesday.

It was the same day a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Texas.

“Think of all the people who have seen what’s happening and have kids taking them to school every day. The fear that’s associated with that,” Kennedy said.

North Carolina ranked 38th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia for overall access to mental health care, according to the 2022 State of Mental Health in America report.

On Wednesday, Governor Roy Cooper called on state lawmakers to pass legislation providing better access to care.

“I’ve had gun advocates tell me the issue isn’t assault weapons but sanity,” he said in a video on Twitter. “Well, there’s a bill right now in the legislature that will provide billions of dollars for mental health through Medicaid expansion. Pass it and I’ll sign it.

Most of our vendors have been fully booked for months, preventing you from getting the help you need.

“Mental health services are extremely stretched right now,” said Dr. Jaren Doby, psychotherapist at Novant Health. “Any kind of preventative work or actively making sure you help them in times of crisis could really make a huge difference. Not just in their lives, but in the lives of so many others.

Kennedy is bridging the gap with mental health first aid to offer help to people who can’t afford to make an appointment or can’t find an appointment with a professional right away.

“We are able to train people on what to do in a situation that could defuse something that could be a big problem for someone,” he said.

The instructors offer lessons for groups of up to 30 people.

Anyone interested in registering for Mental Health First Aid can click here.

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