GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — It’s harder than ever to get an appointment with a therapist.

People are waiting months to see a professional as many deal with trauma related to recent mass shootings in Texas and New York. Organizations in the Piedmont Triad are taking matters into their own hands to provide care while you wait for help.

“The earlier interventions that we can provide people, the better the outcomes are for them,” said Ches Kennedy, who works at UNC Greensboro and Heidelberg United Church of Christ.

The university is offering a resource to help you better understand how to help someone with a mental health challenge. It’s called mental health first aid. It’s an eight-hour course designed to teach you the basics of mental health.

Instructors share the signs someone might be struggling like a change in mood, hygiene or eating habits.
Then, you learn where to send that person for help.

Kennedy started the program at UNCG.

“Our counseling center has 14 counselors,” he said. “We have 20,000 students…it’s really hard for us to provide services to all those students.”

Now, he’s taking it to the community. The first session at Heidelberg United Church of Christ in Thomasville, where Kennedy is the interim pastor, happened Tuesday.

That was the same day a shooter killed 19 students and two teachers at a Texas elementary school.

“Think about all the people who have watched this happening who have children who are taking them to school every day. The fear that’s associated with that,” Kennedy said.

North Carolina ranked 38th out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia for overall access to mental health care, according to the 2022 State of Mental Health in America report.

On Wednesday, Governor Roy Cooper called on state lawmakers to pass legislation providing more access to care.

“I’ve had gun advocates tell me that the problem is not assault weapons but mental health,” he said in a video on Twitter. “Well, there’s a bill right now in the legislature that will provide billions of dollars for mental health through Medicaid expansion. Pass it and I’ll sign it.”

Many of the providers we have are fully booked for months, making it harder for you to get the help you need.

“Mental health services right now are very much so extremely pushed to their limits,” said Dr. Jaren Doby, a psychotherapist with Novant Health. “Any kind of preventative work or actively making sure you’re helping them in moments of crisis could really make a huge difference. Not in their lives alone but in the lives of so many others.”

Kennedy is bridging the gap with mental health first aid to offer help to people who can’t afford an appointment or can’t find an appointment with a professional immediately.

“We are able to train people on what to do in a situation that might deescalate something that might be a big problem for someone,” he said.

Instructors offer courses for groups as large as 30 people.

Anyone interested in signing up for mental health first aid can click here.