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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

We need more training for acute mental illness

Approach, assessment, management of patients with behavioral emergency are consistent with those of patients with physical conditions

By Arthur Hsieh

Editor's note: Mental Health First Aid, an initiative expanding in N.M., trains lay people on mental health basics.

I really like this idea. I saw this about two years ago and it bears repeating: Acute mental illness is like any other condition we manage, albeit without obvious physical signs.

Nevertheless, the approach, assessment and management of the patient with a behavioral emergency are consistent with those of patients with physical conditions: Establish that there are no safety hazards and that the patient is not experiencing any immediate life threats, and complete a history and physical examination.

I think we can get hung up on the patient's psychological presentation, since we receive so little training in recognizing and managing these events.

Mental Health First Aid is an Australian initiative that has been in the United States since 2008 and has trained 60,000 people in 43 states, from the lay public to the professional.

I believe that the course is an excellent 12-hour investment in how to better respond to and interact with the patient with an acute behavioral emergency. There is also the option of getting a behavioral analysis certificate or degree.

I'm hoping to take a class soon! Maybe I'll see you there.


About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at
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