If someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, and you’re waiting for professional help to arrive or the situation to resolve, there are a few steps you can take to support that person and help them feel a little more comfortable in the interim – it’s called Mental Health First Aid and it’s saving and changing lives around the world.
Not completely dissimilar from regular first aid, mental health first aid often involves providing help and assistance to support someone who is struggling with a health issue or crisis while you await professional services or assistance.
For those who haven’t heard of Mental Health First Aid – often shortened to MHFA – before, this training program has been designed to train people how to recognise the signs of a mental health problem, such as:
- Behaving differently than usual
- Changes in ways of thinking, feeling and behaving
These signs may indicate they are experiencing a mental health problem, and that it might be a good time to start the conversation. The training is not about diagnosing and treating mental health problems – this is always to be left to medical professionals - but instead how to encourage the person to open channels of communication and find support.
MHFA is about the first response and piecing together a picture based on the changes you have identified in someone. Everyone is unique, and sometimes people may just be navigating a bumpy patch in their life and not experiencing a mental health problem or crisis. But if we notice a change in someone that is of concern to those around them, that’s often when the conversation can commence.
Have you listened to the podcast? Fernwood Fitness Wellness, Training & Development Manager and Accredited MHFA Instructor Emma Robertson played host for a special episode where she explored in-depth discussions around the topic of mental health with Mental Health First Aid Workplace Engagement Manager Kathy Bond. Listen via Spotify or Apple Podcasts.
Starting the conversation
“What I love about the course so much is that it’s very skills-based. It does increase awareness about mental illness, it does decrease stigma, but it also teaches skills and the course gives the opportunity to practice those skills as well, so it’s a really practical course,” Mental Health First Aid Workplace Engagement Manager Kathy Bond says.
The course teaches people key steps for administering MHFA and how to apply these for people experiencing the different forms of mental health problems including depression, anxiety, psychosis, and substance use problems.
A common method applied is called ALGEE:
- Approach the person and assess and assist with any crisis
- Listen and communicate non-judgmentally
- Give information and support
- Encourage professional help
- Encourage other supports
The course has limitations, and should not be used as a method to diagnose or treat someone; it’s about supporting them and starting a conversation about their health and wellbeing.
Can I do MHFA training?
Over 250 staff across the Fernwood Fitness network have been trained in Mental Health First Aid, administered by Wellness, Training & Development Manager and Accredited MHFA Instructor Emma Robertson.
“MHFA taught me to take a big step back…and really just listen and observe what’s going on, and really try to see things from the other person’s perspective. Because even though many people experience depression, many people experience anxiety, the exact experience of that is different for everyone. So you can never assume that you know what the other person is going through,” Emma says.
“The more we shine a light on something like mental health, the more we can bring it to the fore and help people through those experiences.”
For anyone interested in learning more about Mental Health First Aid, tune into our podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts where Emma and Kathy chat in detail about mental health, starting the conversation, and getting support for yourself or people close to you.
You can also head to mhfa.com.au to find out more about MHFA training and all the incredible work they do in supporting people across Australia, and around the world.
If you, or someone you know, needs crisis support, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.
For urgent medical attention, phone 000 immediately.
This information is of a general nature. It does not take into consideration your personal or health conditions. Always consult your GP, medical specialist, or mental health specialist, for health-related advice.