It's time we started talking more about mental health.
Every year in Australia, 1 in 5 people will experience a mental health problem of some sort.
For us in the VET sector, this means that we are almost guaranteed to be working with one of them right now. If we have a class of 20 students, statistically 4 of them will be experiencing a mental health problem.
When someone experiences a mental health problem, it can get in the way of them performing at their best, whether that’s socially, academically or interpersonally.
Think about it… you’ve probably though to yourself at some point, that someone “hasn’t quite seemed themselves”, or that you felt “something was up”. It’s certainly happened to me before!
But how confident did you feel to start a conversation about it with the person? I am guessing probably not very confident at all. And that’s ok, because without knowledge or an action plan, how could you be confident?
It’s these instances where we need a set of tools to help us have the conversation and help the person. And those tools are covered in our Mental Health First Aid course.
What is Mental Health?
Mental Health can be seen as a continuum, with good mental health at one end and poor mental health at the other end. It’s perfectly normal to move up and down the continuum throughout life. That movement can be due to things like our biology, our experiences and the things that happen to us as we go through life.
A mental health issue becomes a problem when it gets in the way of someone’s day to day functioning or thinking.
How does a mental health problem affect someone?
A mental health problem might affect the way a person thinks, feels and behaves. Each mental health issue has unique impacts, and everyone experiences a mental health issue in different ways.
You might sense someone is withdrawing from interactions, they may be distracted, unfocussed and find it difficult to concentrate. They may appear to have an affected mood, be nervous or stressed.
In some more severe cases, a mental health issue may be a crisis, and the person may have suicidal thoughts, be misusing substances or even harming themselves.
So why is this important?
I saw an article in the newspaper recently that said mental health issues were the single most common issue that GP’s in Australia deal with on a daily basis. Let that sink in for a second.
On one hand, this is not a bad thing because people are seeking help (always good!), but on the other hand it illustrates the severity of the issue.
The key to addressing a mental health problem is early intervention. The earlier an intervention is sought, the more likely the person will recover from the mental health issue, more quickly.
Most people who experience a mental health problem don’t seek treatment, so the likelihood of the problem worsening, and impacting their life more, is greatly increased.
Early intervention is key to someone seeking the help they may need, and recovering.
From the perspective of helping our students achieve their best, its sobering to know that according to the ABS data, someone experiencing a mental health issue takes on average 3-4 sick days per month. And, untreated mental health issues cost workplaces about 12 billion dollars a year. Yes, billion.
So from an RTO perspective, it’s our view that it’s absolutely our business to be assisting as many people as we can, to seek help with their mental health. It’s good for them, good for their employer, and ultimately, good for us too.
But how do we help?
If someone at work fell off a ladder and broke their arm, what would you do?
You’d probably get a first aider, or call an ambulance.
If someone you worked with was diagnosed with Cancer, what would you do?
You’d probably rally around them and offer support. Maybe you’d do some fundraising, or perhaps you’d offer some in person support.
If someone you worked with told you they were living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, what would you do?
If you aren’t quite sure – that’s ok! We aren’t taught how to respond to mental health problems in the same way we are taught to respond to physical health issues.
The best way we can position ourselves to help, is to increase our mental health literacy, and then learn the steps to take when responding to a mental health issue, exactly the same way we do with physical first aid.
Think about it – until you did a first aid course, do you know how to do CPR? Did you know how to make a sling for a broken arm? Did you know what to do if someone got bitten by a snake?
Probably not. And it’s the same with mental health first aid – we need to learn the skills so we can help when it’s needed.
And, just like physical first aid, we can absolutely save lives by using our mental health first aid skills.
Mental Health First Aid
The Mental Health First Aid course is a two day course that covers a range of mental health issues, and mental health crisis situations.
Just like physical first aid doesn’t teach you to be a paramedic, mental health first aid doesn’t teach you to become a psychologist or a counsellor.
We teach you the skills to help someone experiencing a mental health issue until such time as professional help is sought.
The course is evidence based, and incorporates the lived experience of people living with metal health problems. It’s packed with practical examples, activities and real life scenarios.
We also teach you the ALGEE action plan for responding to mental health issues. ALGEE is the mental health version of DRSABCD in physical first aid.
There is so much we can say about mental health, but here is the summary….
In a study that compared the impact of physical health problems to mental health problems, it was found that the burden experienced by someone with a moderate anxiety or depression, is equivalent to that of someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Whoa. Pause here and let that sink in for a second.....
45% of people between 16 and 86 will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime, Every year, 1 in 5 people experience a mental health issue.
Most people don’t know how to have a conversation about it, or know how to help someone through a mental health problem.
On top of all of that, there is incredible stigma that still surrounds mental health problems.
And because of these things, a large majority of people do not seek treatment, which means their mental health problems are not addressed.
At one end of the spectrum, some of these people will have their mental health issue resolve all by itself. But at the other end, many won’t. Many will die by suicide.
And by simply learning about mental health first aid, we can make a huge difference in people’s lives. Indeed, we can save a life, just like you can when performing CPR.
Join us for one of our upcoming mental health first aid courses. I guarantee you’ll leave feeling empowered, knowledgeable, and ready to assist.