Anxiety, depression, paranoia, substance addiction, eating disorders and suicide are increasing at alarming rates around us. We are all touched by this in some way. Indeed, at some point in our lives most (if not all) of us will experience a challenge to our mental health and/or need to be supportive of a family member, colleague or friend who is experiencing some form of mental anguish or crisis. At times like this both the sufferer and the carer can feel hopeless and alone, not knowing where to turn to for help. Trite advice such as “get over it” or “just pray” often only escalate the sense of isolation, helplessness and despair; and navigating the mental health system can be daunting. This is where the mental health first aider can be of support and assistance.
Who are Mental Health First Aiders?
Mental health first aiders are not trained counsellors or psychologists. They are trained to offer initial help to a person developing, or experiencing a worsening of, a mental health is sue, or who is in a mental crisis. This aid is provided until appropriate professional help is accessed or the crisis is over. First Aiders can also offer support and information to carers of those suffering a mental health issue.
Mental health first aiders are trained to:
identify the signs of a mental illness
assess the risk of self-harm or suicide and escalate to appropriate emergency service if necessary
provide an understanding, non-judgemental ear
communicate compassionately and effectively with the person in mental or emotional distress
provide information about appropriate mental health services available in the community
encourage the person to access appropriate professional help
assist the sufferer (or their carer) to navigate the mental health system as need determines