We are all aware of the mental health campaigns urging us to check in with each other, like R U OK?, to start the conversation about someone’s mental health… but do you know how to support and guide them to resources if they say “No, I’m not ok”?. What are the next steps to take? Do you feel confident to have that discussion?
Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing a course called Mental Health First Aid, to learn more about how to support the people around me if they are struggling with their mental health or have a mental health crisis. The course is about teaching people how to provide support to someone when they start to become unwell and provide early intervention if possible, by starting the conversation, making a plan to see a GP or professional, talking about the resources available and dispelling misinformation about mental health.
How the course content is applied is not that much different to how you would apply physical first aid. You are there to support the person until someone more qualified for the role, such as a GP or counsellor, is available.
There are many reasons why mental health awareness and training is so important.
If someone is struggling with their mental health, it is most likely to be first noticed by the people around them and not by a health professional. If we are to notice those symptoms early, we need to know what we are looking for and how to assist. Sometimes the person may not even be aware themselves that they are experiencing mental illness, may not be able to take action themselves to seek help, or know that effective help may be available for them.
Most people aren’t well informed with how to deal with mental health problems or a mental health crisis. There are a lot of myths, misinformation and misunderstanding around mental health problems which need to be reduced and banished. Mental health is affected by stigma and discriminiation, which stops people talking about their struggles and seeking help. There is a huge percentage of people in Australia who don’t seek treatment for mental illness, and even when they do seek treatment there could be long wait times and any delay can prolong their recovery. People are more likely to seek mental health treatment if someone close to them suggests it.
Mental health problems are common and more so now with stress and anxiety from a global pandemic, lockdowns and social isolation. We are not living in easy times, and mental health problems were increasing dramatically before the pandemic started. If there was ever a time when we needed to look out for each other, it would be now.
Talking with the instructor and other people in the course helped us to realise that we were all hesitant to say the wrong thing to someone with a mental health condition, and that by doing the course we had gained confidence in what to say, how to listen and how to give assistance that will support the person’s needs. It also made us aware of our own mental health experiences, prioritising the things that help us stay healthy and balanced, and knowing our boundaries on how much help we can give.
I highly recommended the course if you are someone who wants to learn more on how to support someone until they can receive professional help and to gain confidence to have the tougher conversations, and with the information from this course, the conversations don’t have to be tough – but they may improve and save someone’s life!
So now I’m a qualified Mental Health First Aider and I encourage you to look into becoming one too!
Take good care, Readers. I’ll keep the light on.
For more information about the Mental Health First Aid course, see https://mhfa.com.au/.
I participated in this course at my own expense. All opinions are my own.