Learn strategies to cope with mental health disorders

Sandy Tudor, a licensed mental health counselor associate, wants to teach people how to help others deal with a variety of mental health issues through a two-day Mental Health First Aid workshop developed by the national council.

The statistics are startling: one in four Americans experience mental health disorders each year and every 14 minutes someone commits suicide in the United States according to information provided by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare.

Sandy Tudor, a licensed mental health counselor associate, wants to teach people how to help others deal with a variety of mental health issues through a two-day Mental Health First Aid workshop developed by the national council.

Tudor, a Covington resident, has a unique perspective on mental health disorders, having served for 22 years in law enforcement. She resigned from the Federal Way Police Department in late October with the rank of lieutenant.

She first took the training while working for Federal Way Police so she could become a certified mental health first aid trainer in order to offer the workshops to her fellow officers.

“I had an interest in training officers … because we deal with mental health (issues) all the time,” Tudor said. “I thought the class was amazing, something that was sorely needed, to give basic literacy in mental health. It helps teach people about the basics, as laymen, not as professional mental health care providers, how to deal with someone who is experiencing mental health issues and does not know what to do.”

Tudor, who earned a master’s degree in counseling from Northwest University, is passionate about helping people understand the realm of mental health disorders in order to create understanding and reduce fear.

“An important component about mental first aid is to de-stigmatize mental health issues,” Tudor said. “We are a lot more likely to admit we have high blood pressure or diabetes than depression or anxiety. The average length of time it takes for someone to get healthy treatment is eight to 10 years for things like depression or anxiety, eight to 10 years of someone basically suffering … before you get help.”

Tudor sought a venue in the area to offer the workshop for some time now. When she found the community room at Covington City Hall it offered the right environment for a reasonable price. It also made sense because she lives in Covington.

The workshop is scheduled for two sessions, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., March 8 and 9. It costs $99, which covers the rental of the space, the materials for the course and includes a workbook with information, resources and more.

“I’ve been trying to get this rolling for the last year, but because it’s 12 hours, a lot of people resist it a little bit,” Tudor said. “People are always excited about it, it’s so needed, but it’s hard to take 12 hours to do it.”

Given the larger national conversation underway following the shooting rampages in December in Sandy Hook, Conn., and Portland, Ore., among others, the timing is appropriate. Tudor explained that the training program is part of President Barack Obama’s Now Is The Time plan for safe schools and communities.

The training sessions will cover a number of topics including depression and suicide prevention, anxiety disorders such as post traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders.

“The class is interactive, highly interactive, it’s not all lecture. It’s maybe 40 to 50 percent lecture,” Tudor said. “There’s group work. It’s fun — there’s videos, there’s role play. There’s just a lot of interesting exercises that we use which cater to a lot of learning styles.”

Tudor said she hopes those who participate can walk away armed with knowledge and tools. The workbook participants receive provides an action plan with an acronym that offers steps to follow. “My hope is that they’re equipped to handle helping someone who is having a mental health crisis, to be able to recognize mental health issues in themselves and others,” Tudor said. “I really think it will save lives because mental health issues affect a person’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors, and when you’ve got a mental health issue it seriously affects your ability to live a normal life, your ability to work, your ability to learn and your ability to have satisfying relationships. I hope people walk away knowing there is recovery, there is help out there.”

Ultimately, as someone who offers help in practice at Cedar River Counseling in Renton, it is about helping others learn what she knows.

“The purpose of me doing this — for me, it’s my heart, it’s my way of giving back to the community by doing this,” she said. “I just really believe in it.”

For more information contact Tudor at 206-914-0426, sandyetudor@gmail.com or visit www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org.