As health professionals, we are inevitably exposed to teaching around mental health and its importance. However this theoretical awareness is often a far cry from a true understanding of how to recognise, react to, support and work with mental illness in the real world.
We were lucky enough to attend the Waterwell Project’s Mental Health First Aid Course on Saturday May 27th. It was an incredibly valuable day, allowing us to shift our knowledge into action, and giving us the skills and resources needed to care for those around us suffering from poor mental health.
The session was presented by Geoffrey Ahern, a senior Mental Health Clinician with a wealth of on-the-ground experience, having worked in the public mental health sector for many year, including crisis response with Victoria Police. He was a fantastic speaker - vibrant, engaging, informed and able to give a remarkably thorough and relevant overview of common mental health topics within a single day session. The topics ranged from a brief but still shocking look into the dark history of mental health treatments, to an overview of the most common forms of mental illness in Australia and useful strategies for mental health promotion. There was a strong focus on recognition and prevention, including exactly what steps people can take when worried about someone.
Of particular relevance to the groups we work with at The Water Well Project was our discussion on the wide-ranging impact trauma can have on mental health. Sadly, people of migrant and refugee backgrounds in Australia endure a disproportionate burden of mental illness, a consequence of immense psychosocial stressors in adapting to a new life, often complicated by social isolation, cultural dissociation, and in many cases significant trauma in their past.
They are also a group at high risk of not accessing the help they need, whether it is due to cultural stigma relating to mental illness, limited knowledge of healthcare systems, language difficulties or financial concerns.
The Water Well Project is focused on reducing these barriers, and as volunteers we are excited to bring our newfound knowledge and skills to our sessions and be able to respond effectively to the mental health needs of these communities.
We’d strongly encourage all of you to take part in any future Mental Health First Aid events!
Written by Sally and Nosh