(Photo:Flickr/Marcin Wichary)

Many people know the proper steps to take when someone has trouble breathing, suffers a serious fall or goes unconscious because they’ve taken a first aid class, but fewer are aware of the proper protocol when a friend admits to having suicidal thoughts or a stranger in a grocery store has a panic attack. That’s why the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Missouri Department of Mental Health came together to bring Mental Health First Aid USA to as many states as possible.

As USA Today reports, since the program began in 2008, 50,000 people in 47 states have taken the 12-hour course, which teaches participants what to do when someone is in a mental health crisis.

The course gained particular traction this past year in Arizona when the state started offering it in the aftermath of a mentally ill man shooting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others in Tucson.

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Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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