Did you know that one in five Australians experience a mental illness each year? In fact, mental illness is now the third leading cause of disability burden in this country, making it more important than ever to understand how to support a colleague, friend or family member who may be suffering in silence.

At some point, whether it be at work, home or socially, someone you care about may not quite be themselves and start behaving differently. So how do you approach them to see if they’re okay? Then what do you do if they tell you they’re not? Training in mental health first aid is one way you can develop the skills to help in these types of situations. Read on to find out more.

What is mental health first aid?

Mental health can have a serious effect on our day-to-day lives and you never know when someone might need your help. So it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms when offering that crucial first step in the process of helping someone seek professional ongoing care.

By definition, mental health first aid is the help provided to a person who is developing a mental health problem, experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional help is received or the crisis resolves.

Why is mental first aid so important?

When we think of first aid, mental health is typically not the first thing that comes to mind. But much like how everyone can benefit from traditional physical first aid training, everyone can benefit from mental first aid training. However, many people still feel unsure how to approach situations where someone is struggling with a mental health problem.

Because of the stigma associated with mental health problems, it often deters people from seeking help for themselves or others. In fact, recent research shows that only 35% of people with mental disorders in Australia have used a health service.

This low statistic tells us that many people with mental illness aren’t seeking the professional help they need on their own and therefore, being able to identify when someone is experiencing a mental health problem and reaching out to them, offers them that initial help.

How do I get qualified?

The best way to develop the skills needed to help someone suffering with a mental health problem is to attend a mental training course. Mental health first aid courses are designed to teach individuals how to identify, understand and support a person with a mental illness when the time comes.

These courses will help you develop your knowledge on mental health issues and topics covered generally include:

  • Understanding of mental health

  • Knowledge of the possible causes or risk factors

  • How to recognise the warning signs and symptoms

  • Effective strategies and techniques to assist

  • Developing the confidence to use these strategies

  • Awareness of where and how to get help

You’ll be equipped with the skills to react sensitively and effectively to a number of different mental health crisis situations and provide that immediate first aid care until you can direct that person to the professional assistance they require. By starting a conversation and taking this first step, you can help save a life.