A couple who lost their son to suicide is now advocates for training in a national movement called Mental Health First Aid.
Washington state has one of the highest suicide rates in the country but ranks number 47 in the nation for access to mental health care. That is due to a high number of people needing services and limited resources. Laura and Todd Crooks hope Mental Health First Aid will fill the gap.
"He came home from work one day and said he had been hearing voices and seeing creatures on the top of buildings that were following him," Laura said of her son, Chad.
Laura and Todd reacted quickly by getting Chad to a hospital. Doctors believed his hallucinations were being caused by his ADHD medication.
"Then one night he had a total psychotic break and said that he wanted to jump off the bridge behind our house, and luckily he told us that," Laura said.
They took Chad back the hospital immediately and after a second psychotic break. Chad was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
"He was worried that any time he had something to say he would be discounted because he had a mental illness," Todd said.
For Chad, his diagnosis was overwhelming. After months of trial and error on different medications, he lost hope.
"At the end, he left us a note, and he said he felt like it was taking over his mind, and he didn't want that to happen he didn’t want to not be him. So, in the end, he gave up," Laura said.
Chad died by suicide on January 21, 2016.
"It wasn't because of lack of love. It was because we didn't know how to help him," Laura said through the tears.
The Crooks are now pouring their pain into advocacy. They've created a project called Chad's Legacy dedicated to treating mental health and have been active in raising awareness. One of their missions is to spread the word on Mental Health First Aid.
"The underlying idea of Mental Health First Aid is to help connect with someone who is in a crisis," Todd said.
Mental Health First Aid is a research-based movement with classes being taught nationally. The eight-hour course teaches people to assess the level of danger, listen and give support.
"It also teaches what they are going through so you can understand what these diagnoses are," Laura said.
The movement has been so successful that King County has set aside $400,000 to implement a program in Seattle. The plan now is to give training to nurses and teachers while also offering classes to the community.
The Crooks believe that Mental Health First Aid should be just as prevalent as CPR because we will all meet many people with mental health issues. Because just like learning CPR, knowing first aid for mental health can save a life.
"For me, the dream is that no other mother to lose her child, ever because of a mental health issue," Laura said.
Mental Health First Aid courses are offered weekly in Seattle and around the country.
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