18 June 2018

A certified approach to mental health first aid

We grow up knowing how to react when someone injures themselves physically. But what do you do when someone has a mental health condition and needs help?

When someone falls and cuts their knee, the first aid kit comes out and pressure is placed on the wound while medical attention is sought. People know what to do: they’ve grown up being told how to react when someone gets injured. But what do you do when someone has a mental health condition and they need help?

Mental health first aid courses have been launched to fill this gap. The uptake of these courses is less common, despite the prevalence of mental health conditions in
our society.

What is mental health first aid?

Mental health first aid (MHFA) is about providing support to a person when they are developing a mental health problem, experiencing the worsening of an existing mental health problem, or are experiencing a mental health crisis. Similar to traditional first aid, a person on the scene provides support to the person until medical attention arrives or the situation is resolved.

People supporting people

Jamie Painter, North Queensland Coordinator for Black Dog Rides and a MHFA instructor, has started delivering the course to staff at Just Better Care Townsville, owned and operated by his wife Mary. A passionate crusader for raising awareness of mental health and suicide prevention, Jamie became an instructor a few years back following his involvement with Black Dog Ride. He is driven by his commitment to reducing negative stigmas associated with mental health.

Jamie wants to find a way to train more Australians in MHFA, to ensure the many people living with a mental health condition can always find support, and to let people know they’re not alone.

“I have travelled around Australia with the Black Dog Ride over numerous years and can honestly say that there is a need for MHFA the length and breadth of this beautiful country. Every generation and region experiences its own unique pressures and stresses however, the need for MHFA, just like physical first aid, is universal and ongoing,” Jamie said.

“I have met many people whose quality of life has been adversely affected, not only by the lack of understanding of their own situation, but by the lack of understanding and knowledge of those around them. The ripple effect is that this also affects relationships, families, employment and the wider community. This is without considering the cost burden to the community.”

Jamie is running regular courses in conjunction with his daughter-in-law Adair, who facilitates the Indigenous Mental Health First Aid Course. Businesses, groups or individuals in the Townsville area wanting to train in MHFA can visit to find courses in their local area.

This is a story from our latest issue of Possible, read more here