Dr. Natalee Popadiuk
Practical Mental Health Interventions Everyone Can Learn!, May 1, 2004
By Dr. Natalee Popadiuk Vancouver, BC, Canada
I highly recommend First Aid to Mental Illness: A Practical Guide for Patients and Caregivers by
psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Rayel. The author provides invaluable factual information to his readers
in an engaging manner, while maintaining a compassionate approach toward addressing mental health
concerns. This book teaches the average person specific strategies to more effectively recognize
and respond to a mental illness in themselves or others.
Dr. Rayel provides a number of easy-to-use, step-by-step frameworks, including the CARE Approach.
As an example, you would first CHECK for signs of mental illness, such as significant changes in
thought, emotions or behavior. Then, you would ANTICIPATE complications, including the possibility
of suicidal ideation or a suicide attempt. Next, you would REMEDY the problem with an intervention,
such as addressing the ongoing problems. Finally, you would EDUCATE yourself and others about the
mental illness in order to dispel myths and decrease stigma.
Besides providing practical strategies for early recognition and intervention, Dr. Rayel discusses
thirteen different mental illnesses including depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic
attacks, anxiety, and eating disorders. I like how the author uses real-life case studies to
highlight how mental illnesses can affect anyone, despite age, intelligence, or socioeconomic
status. As a psychotherapist, I especially appreciate the effort Dr. Rayel takes to explain complex
psychological concepts accurately, and in everyday language that is easy to understand.
In developing a course on Mental Illness First Aid for the Canadian Mental Health Association, I
chose Dr. Rayel's book as the official textbook, because it is clearly written, uses practical
strategies, and is easy to read and understand without being simplistic. Participants in the course
specifically learn how to use the CARE approach to recognize and respond to mental illnesses in an
effective and timely manner. The participant feedback about the CARE framework and the textbook,
First Aid to Mental Illness: A Practical Guide for Patients and Caregivers, has been overwhelmingly
I highly recommend Dr. Rayel's book to (1) caregivers and those they love who are struggling with a
mental illness; (2) those interested in physical and psychological health and wellness; and (3)
anyone who works with people, including police officers, teachers, transit operators, case
managers, nurses, youth workers, business managers, medical doctors, community centre staff, peer
counselors, and the like.