We have a colleague who is a senior HR professional in a high pressure industry. Some weeks ago an employee came into their office and admitted they were considering suicide, largely because of the pressure at work. While this is a confronting situation for anyone, that was our colleague’s third incident that year.

Everyday, two hundred people in Australia attempt suicide and, in any given year, one out of every five Australian adults develop some type of mental health problem. Until now, mental health issues have remained in the dark, heavily stigmatized and often forgotten about. Recent events you may have seen in the media from the shockingly tragic to the desperately sad have brought the issue of mental health problems into the forefront. No longer able to push the issue aside, many people are starting to step up to the plate and are willing to help but just don’t know how to go about it.

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In order to thrive as a community we need to be mindful of the people we come into contact with in our daily lives. We need the knowledge to recognize when someone is in need of help, the confidence to stay calm in an emergency and wherewithal to be able to contact needed resources and reach out for help when needed.

Mental health “first aid” means being able to help a person who is developing a mental health problem while professional help is found or the crisis clears. Learning MHFA empowers community members to actively identify those in need and train them to be able to help until professional help can be arranged.

As mental health problems are so prevalent, MHFA skills are important for anyone to learn. However, it may be especially important to obtain MHFA training if you are public service provider of any kind (police officers, medial staff, teachers, volunteers, etc.). If you work daily with the general public you are in a key position to recognize the early warning signs of people developing mental health problems. Your quick action might be able to stop a future tragic event from taking place.

The more people that take the time to learn about Mental Health First Aid, the more the stigma on mental health patients will fade. Currently it is more common for a person with developing warning signs of mental illness to be avoided or ignored rather than helped. Because mental health issues are often misunderstood by the public, the person suffering from the illness is less likely to reach out for help on their own.

MHFA training will allow you to become a vigilant observer, a person that has empathy for others, and will give you the confidence you need to follow through with a plan of action. Through outreach such as this, a difference will be made in the lives of people suffering from mental illness.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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