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Librarians Learn Mental Health First Aid In San Diego

Photo caption: A view of the San Diego Public Library, Sept. 9, 2016.

Photo by KPBS Staff

A view of the San Diego Public Library, Sept. 9, 2016.

Librarians Learn Mental Health First Aid in San Diego


Wendy Hopkins, bureau chief, California State Library Development Services Bureau

Joseph Miesner, access services librarian, San Diego Public Library


Librarians from across the state met in San Diego late last month to learn how to spot warning signs of mental illness. The training, part of a $1 million mental health initiative from the California State Library, certified about 30 librarians as trainers, who will conduct training sessions of their own for local librarians.

"Libraries attract a fair share of homeless and mentally ill," said Wendy Hopkins, bureau chief for the California State Library's Development Services Bureau. "We’re here to serve communities and many people come looking for answers to their problems."

Joseph Miesner is an access services librarian in San Diego and was the city's representative at the training. He said librarians were taught to assess the risk of self-harm, listen without judgment, and encourage patrons to seek help. That help could either be with a mental health professional or with some of the books in the library itself.

"You’re not diagnosing, curing or treating, but you’re recognizing possible issues," he said. "We can try to reassure people and give them information and steer them towards treatment."

Hopkins and Miesner join KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday with more on the prevalence of library patrons with a mental illness and how librarians are trained to de-escalate situations.

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