The first time Brian Cuban was dragged—kicking and screaming—to Medical City Green Oaks Hospital, it was courtesy of his brothers Mark and Jeff. It didn’t stick. He resolved to become better at hiding the eating disorder and substance-use issues he’d kept from them for decades.
Two years later, Brian was back and finally ready to admit he needed help. Since that day in April 2007, Brian has been in long-term recovery from alcohol and cocaine addiction and bulimia. He credits his brothers with saving his life.
“There is no recovery without community,” he says. It’s why he’s passionate about the Mental Health First Aid program (MHFA), which teaches people how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental and substance-use disorders. This training may be even more important during COVID-19, when stress and anxiety compound already existing mental health challenges.
CPR for the brain.
If you’ve ever taken a CPR class, you know that cardiovascular pulmonary resuscitation is a first-aid staple taught to teen babysitters and lifeguards, to parents in hospital baby care classes, and in schools, businesses and workplaces across the country.
CPR saves lives. According to the Red Cross, bystander CPR can significantly increase the chance of surviving a life-threatening event such as a heart attack.
That’s the idea behind the North Texas Mental Health First Aid 10,000 Lives Initiative, with the goal of training 10,000 North Texans in Mental Health First Aid by the end of 2020.
My family was my MHFA.
“Before the MHFA program existed, my mental health first aid was my family,” Brian says. “I’m aware of the privilege of having a family, of having resources, because many people don’t. Without my brothers, I wouldn’t be here today. MHFA creates a community of people—a family—for people who may not have one.”
Brian took the Mental Health First Aid class, he says, to find out “what I didn’t know that I didn’t know.”
As an attorney and author, Brian regularly speaks to lawyers and other groups about his mental and behavioral health issues. However, he was unsure how to relate to people with problems different from his own.
How Mental Health First Aid can help break down walls.
“MHFA teaches people how to talk about things they may be uncomfortable with,” Brian says. “I knew very little about mental health issues such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Without an understanding of what someone is going through, you create walls that pain and emotion can’t get through. The class gives people the tools they need to break down the walls.”
Brian is grateful for every opportunity to help someone struggling with their mental health.
“Part of helping people who have nowhere else to go is stepping outside your comfort zone,” he says. “It’s so easy to stay in your wheelhouse. But then all these people would fall through the cracks.”
Early intervention is a form of prevention.
One in five adults in the U.S. lives with a mental health issue, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, but most don’t seek professional help. Like CPR, Mental Health First Aid helps teach the public to recognize and respond appropriately to someone who might be having a mental health crisis.
Among those who eventually get help, the average delay between the onset of symptoms and treatment is 11 years, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Sherry Cusumano, director of community education and clinical development at Medical City Green Oaks Hospital and president of the North Texas affiliate of NAMI, says this delay is a huge problem.
“Even those with the most severe mental health issues, if you intervene with appropriate therapies, could go on to have a career, a family life,” she says. “Without treatment, skills and connections can become lost. Early intervention is a form of prevention.”
Sherry heads up Medical City Healthcare’s MHFA efforts in collaboration with other healthcare providers and the initiative’s North Texas organizer, the DFW Hospital Council Foundation. Medical City is one of the organizations that has participated in hosting MHFA classes for teachers, school nurses, people who work with at-risk populations and many others.
“We hope to see class participants share what they’ve learned and get others interested in taking the class,” says Sherry, who is an MHFA instructor. “It’s such a worthwhile program that is really making a difference. ”
Mental Health First Aid is a skills-based training course that teaches participants about mental health and substance-use issues. During the 8-hour class, participants learn to:
- Recognize signs, symptoms and risk factors of mental illnesses and addictions
- Identify multiple types of professional and self-help resources
- Increase their confidence in and likelihood to help an individual in distress
- Follow the ALGEE action plan for those who might need help:
- Assess for risk of suicide or harm
- Listen non-judgmentally
- Give reassurance and information
- Encourage appropriate professional help
- Encourage self-help and other support strategies
Telehealth psychiatry services.
Medical City Green Oaks Hospital began offering tele-psychiatry services as a way to help patients following stay-at-home recommendations during COVID-19. Remote mental health solutions are available to new and existing patients. Clinical staff will guide you through each step of the process, and most major insurance plans are accepted. Behavioral health services that offer both in-person and telehealth options include:
- Chemical dependency
- Day treatment and partial hospitalization
- WorkReturns program
- Adolescent outpatient program
- Electroconvulsive therapy (in-person only)
Medical City Green Oaks offers inpatient psychiatric care and multiple outpatient programs in North Texas. Call (972) 770-0818 anytime.