Mental health first aid for councillors and staff

Article image - Mental health first aid for councillors and staff Staff are joined by Cr Peter Wright (right), proudly showing our new gold star status as a mental health first aid skilled workplace

Mental health and wellbeing has taken centre stage in the Coorong District Council area, following an unprecedented number of local deaths by suicide this year.

The South Australian Council took the initiative of holding a series of well-attended suicide prevention forums within the community and has committed to the development of the Coorong Suicide Prevention Network.

Understanding the importance of a whole-of-Council approach to mental health, staff and elected members recently undertook training with Mental Health First Aid Australia (MHFA) and the Council gained Gold status as a Mental Health First Aid Skilled Workplace.

The recognition will see Council add a customised badge to its website and publications, while Council’s own logo will be displayed on the MHFA Australia website, as well as appearing in the MHFA annual report and newsletter.

“Our staff expressed interest in MHFA training and since then a large number have chosen to undertake the course – simply because they want to be able to recognise friends, family and community members who are experiencing mental health issues, and be equipped with how to respond to that,” said Director Community & Corporate Nat Traeger.

“They also want to be able to assist colleagues if the need arises.
“Elected members have been involved in the training, as they also understand the importance of gaining appropriate knowledge in order to support their communities.”

The MHFA course taught staff how to assist a co-worker who was developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis as well as participants learning mental health first aid skills, which could be applied to help any adult.

Topics included depression, anxiety, psychosis and substance use problems, while mental health crises of suicidal thoughts and behaviours, non-suicidal self-injury, panic attacks, traumatic events, severe psychotic states, severe effects from alcohol or other drug use and aggressive behaviours were also covered.

Staff and elected members also wear the “Dancing with the Black Dog” brooch as a sign that they are willing to have a conversation with anyone who needs one.