Mental health first aiders trained to support community

Half of the course is complete, community gathered on Saturday 16 March to begin learning. Picture: SUPPLIED.

By Tanya Steele

Mental health can often feel like a difficult area to broach with people or even talk about but a group of adults in the Upwey community have been learning ‘Mental Health First Aid’ (MHFA) to support adults experiencing mental health issues.

The residents have begun the vital first aid learning in the mental health arena, participating in a course across two weeks in Upwey.

The MHFA course is running across Saturdays on 16 and 23 March, and so far attendees have found the course sessions to be ‘Informative and lively discussions and conversations for learning about Mental Health First Aid.’

Secretary of Upwey’s Men’s Shed Mark McGuire said that initially, the Yarra Ranges Council approached the Upwey Men’s Shed to see if they were interested in conducting the course in their area.

“I thought this was a good idea because this is not only helping and supporting our members but the community as well,” he said.

Attendees have been learning about the signs and symptoms of common mental health problems in adults and how to respond to emerging or worsening situations and the treatments and supports available.

Mr McGuire said that while the attendees would not come away experts – that one of the key insights to be gained from the course is the art of listening.

“The course will give us the words and the statements we can use around about communicating what mental health is, then we can respond confidently when we do confront this crisis, ensure that we’re safe and that the person we’re talking to is safe as well – also then directing them to the directing them to the right services as well,” he said.

“Probably 10 years ago, maybe a bit longer, you know, mental health or was an issue that you didn’t talk openly about.”

The course is being in partnership with Upwey Community Group and funded by Yarra Ranges Council and Mr McGuire said he hopes it will equip community members with the tools they need to support others.

So far feedback from the community attending the course is positive.

‘.. it gave practical strategies for first responders to use to assist people who they might think are experiencing symptoms of depression or having suicidal thoughts. It was engaging with group discussion on the best ways people should assist and give support and advice as a mental health first responder – With high rates of mental health issues in our society it needs to be considered as important as the St John first aid course…Many people would not know how to support people who are experiencing mental health issues and after the course, I feel more confident in talking with and supporting them to find appropriate assistance.’ GW said.

Another participant said the course so far was a ‘Great space for discussion about several topics that allow for positive education. It’s good to see various demographics that are open to learning about mental health and implementing change.’

The course will run its final session this Saturday on 23 March and the group will come away as Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAiders), equipped with the knowledge, confidence, and skills to provide someone with mental health information and support when it matters most.

“It’s about listening to the other and acknowledging the other person’s issues or problems rather than dismissing it, sometimes we can be a bit scared,” Mr McGuire said

“..I think this just helps support your fellow members and your community,” he said.