IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

Mental health, a hot topic of debate in the nation, is now at the forefront of discussion in Idaho Falls.

Optum, a group under contract to provide mental health services to the state, has come to Idaho Falls to teach classes on how to help people with mental illnesses during an emergency.

"I suffer from mental health issues, but there is a definite need within our community and society for mental health," said Liz Patterson.

Patterson is one of many people who attended the course Tuesday. She wants to learn more about first aid mental health. She said it is something that helps communities better understand mental health issues.

"Our law enforcement isn't sure how to handle mental health issues, so it is hard. Because like I said, it's not one glove-fits-all or one size-fits-all; everyone is different," Patterson said.

First responders, including law enforcement officers, are recommended to take the course. It helps people identify, understand and recognize signs of mental illness.

"People are willing to be trained in physical health issues and they do that through CPR. This is CPR for a mental health issue," said Peter Ashenden, First Aid Mental Health Trainer.

Ashenden said people will learn how to interact and engage with a person who is going through a mental health emergency.


"If you say to someone, 'What is going on? How can I help you? Is there something we can talk about?,' that starts the engagement process, which is so important," Ashenden said.
 

Optum's course also incorporates activities that teach people about the engagement process.
 

The class will be taught Wednesday at the Eastern Idaho Public Health District office. If you would like more information, call 855-202-0973 or visit http://www.mtnstatesgroup.org/events/optum-mental-health-first-aid-training-3/.

The course is eight hours long. Optum's next stop is Meridian.