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At Virtual Academy, We’re not Just About Training, We’re About Education.

Updated: Jun 28, 2018

In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, which has been observed across the country since 1949.

The difference between education and training is the same difference between a talk and a drill. One gives you the concept, the other allows you to put it into action. Both are necessary, and when it comes to interacting with someone with a mental challenge, nothing could be more important.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “1 in 5 Americans is affected by mental health conditions.”

Because mental health conditions are so prevalent in America, it is important that we all know the appropriate way to interact. There are numerous conditions, several determining factors, and plenty of emotional triggers. Some conditions are long-term, some are induced by drug or alcohol abuse, and some are short-term conditions caused by crisis and distress. But no matter the type or trigger, there are general principles that are crucial to know.

Daniel Vega, a mental health professional, developed a course on Point-of-Impact crisis for first responders that contains 6 important points of training. Gary Klugiewicz, one of our Subject Matter Experts and a Senior Consultant of Verbal Defense and Influence, explains these points further in the first edition of our Mental Illness course.

1. Reverse Yelling: Reverse yelling, also known as deflating the emotional balloon, is a concept of meeting aggression with calmness. Research shows that people return emotion at three times the level at which they receive it. (course) When aggressive behavior is met with aggressive behavior, situations escalate and become more dangerous by the second. However, if met with calmness, a person cannot maintain their level of aggression. (course)

2. Open Palms: Keeping your palms open and towards the person is non-threatening for them and a measure of safety for you.

3. First Names: Using the person’s first name is another way to be less threatening and more calming.

4. Don’t rush: Take your time and don’t push the person or situation. When you slow things down, everyone is safer.

5. Control Distance: A person who is under distress can be easily set off by a lack of


6. Never Go Alone: It is important to never engage with a mentally ill person in a crisis situation alone for safety and legal reasons. It is safer for you and the person in distress to have another person there, but also, it is important to have a witness in case any actions you take must be deemed appropriate in court.

These tips are used for the training of first responders, but can be implemented by anyone that finds themselves in a situation with a mentally challenged person in distress.

The most important goal is always to keep everyone involved safe.

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