MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID: HELPING OTHERS TO HELP THEMSELVES
Courses in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) allow community members to upskill and learn how to support people with mental illness. While MHFA bears some resemblance to physical first aid, there are points of difference, making space for supported, destigmatised discussion.
As part of your training, you will learn to debunk myths and stigmas surrounding common mental illnesses, as well as offering practical support, but other aspects are best left to the professionals. Here are some of the things MHFA will and won’t qualify you to do.
Mental Health First Aid is only for professionals No way! MHFA is designed for use by everyone. You will learn skills and strategies that will give you confidence about what support you can realistically provide.
MHFA accreditation makes you a mental-health professional and counsellor Not so. On completion of the course, you are an accredited Mental Health First Aider, which means you assist and support people to seek help from professionals, such as a GP, counsellor or case worker. Put simply: you don’t learn physical first aid to become a doctor and you don’t learn MHFA to become a mental-health professional. But, as a highly skilled member of the community, team and workplace, you are able to assist those seeking help from appropriate professionals.
If I have my MHFA accreditation, I can diagnose and treat mental illness While your new skills will assist you to use your first aid in person, they do not give you the comprehensive knowledge and skills to diagnose and treat.
I must help everyone in need Being a Mental Health First Aider enables you to assist and support those in need when you deem it necessary, safe and appropriate. As you are not a professional, you may not feel comfortable assisting certain people at certain times, and that’s okay. You are never under any obligation to use your MHFA. In fact, we recommend having several Mental Health First Aiders on any set, crew or company to allow for more support options, accessibility and inclusion.
You need to know lots about mental health to qualify for the course If you are interested in becoming a Mental Health First Aider, go for it! The course provides a simple framework, with strategies and resources, and is facilitated by instructors who, like you, were beginners at some point. No question is too silly and, as instructors, we are passionate about helping you get the most out of your course. Whether you ask questions in class or come to see us during the breaks, we want to help you to be the best Mental Health First Aider you can.
FACT Approximately 20 per cent of Australian adults experience a common mental illness each year. By becoming a Mental Health First Aider, you will gain skills to support a friend, family member, community member or co-worker, and make a big difference to both your community and someone’s life.
Aimee Davies is founder of The Hey Mate Project and works as a counsellor and MHFA facilitator in creative industries. For more information, visit theheymateproject.com or Instagram @theheymateproject. Phone 1300 633 147, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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