First aid focus on mental health

Looking after the mental health of staff is just as important as looking after their physical health at West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA).

And it’s not just words. WGCMA has put its money where its mouth is and provided mental health first aid training across its workforce with 32 staff now Accredited Mental Health First Aiders.

According to WGCMA Chief Executive Officer Martin Fuller, the training is part of a commitment to caring for the overall health of staff.

“We genuinely care about the mental and physical wellbeing of our people and understand that a healthy workplace is also a productive and happy one,” Mr Fuller said.

“While we’ve always provided first aid training to our staff, we realised we were missing a key area in mental health, so we engaged a certified trainer in Mental Health First Aid Australia (MHFAA) to train our entire workforce.

“We also have really strong links into the community – working with farmers, landholders and other organisations.

“This training has our staff better placed to see when someone might be struggling.”

The two day training has ensured WGCMA staff are equipped with the skills to help people who develop a mental health problem, experience a worsening of a mental health problem, or are in a mental health crisis, until appropriate professional help is received or the crisis resolves.

The training focussed on developing the knowledge and confidence of staff to recognise the signs, symptoms and risk factors of mental health problems in order to give appropriate support to those in need.

“According to beyondblue, today in Australia more than one million people are experiencing depression and more than two million are experiencing an anxiety condition,” Mr Fuller said.

“One in six women and one in eight men will experience depression in their lifetime, and the numbers increase when we talk about anxiety – to one in three women and one in five men in their lifetime.

“Mental health conditions don’t discriminate; they affect people of every age, at every stage of life, from every background, and in every profession.

“We all need to start talking about mental health and checking in with people we are concerned about.”

WGCMA’s effort to provide mental health first aid training to its staff was recently recognised by MHFAA with accreditation as a Gold Skilled Workplace.

In addition to the first aid training, WGCMA also offers Employee Assistance Program Counselling to all staff and their families.

If you are concerned about a loved one or need immediate mental health assistance, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, beyondblue on 1300 22 4636, or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.