Health Support Team offers training to build mental health resilience

Washington State Department of Health is training healthcare providers and first responders in mental health support, and now you can have the opportunity to learn some of these skills outlined in the Health Support Team (HST) program.

Verna Lilly is a crisis counselor and a member of the Pierce County Medical Reserve Corps. She was trained on HST earlier this year in May, and will be offering two classes over Zoom to the public.

“What you learn is effective listening techniques, and how to support a person when they’re having anything from a personal anxiety attack, a bout of depression; with the pandemic we’ve all been under more stress lately. It teaches us how to deal with some of that stress,” said Lilly.

Dr. Kira Mauseth of the DOH’s Behavioral Health Strike Team developed HST a decade ago with a colleague after the earthquake in Haiti.

“We were deployed as part of a bigger medical response after the earthquake that occurred in 2010,” said Dr. Mauseth. “The idea was then we’d take it back [to Haiti], and this is what we did do, and train as many people interested in how to provide psychosocial support for their friends, family and communities within the affected area.”

Dr. Mauseth said within the past decade hundreds of people have been trained in HST. It’s not for mental health professionals but rather intended to grow resilience through peer level and community-based support.

“The HST Program is really designed to infuse communities with this technique and this support that we can all benefit from when professional resources are overwhelmed or in a scarce resource environment in general,” said Dr. Mauseth.

Health experts have said that mental health resources will be hitting their limits with growing COVID-19 fatigue, and stress-related to the holiday season.

Lilly said HST is similar to basic first-aid and CPR training for mental health support.

“Recognizing the symptoms of stress and knowing that they’re very normal symptoms. It’s not a character weakness to feel stress,” said Lilly, “and then knowing how to help a person who’s feeling that. That’s a very valuable skill to have.”

She said the program also informs folks on how to recognize the warning signs for suicide intervention, and how to help a person receive a higher level of care.

Lilly is offering two classes over Zoom on November 5 and 23. The classes are free and will be offered on Zoom from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

You can register for one of the classes by emailing Lilly at Space is limited.