According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in five people are experiencing some kind of mental illness. Similarly, the New Zealand Mental Health Foundation also reports one in five New Zealanders experience a mental illness and/or addiction each year resulting in impacts on relationships, productivity, and physical health.
Assisting with prevention and recovery from work-related psychological injury or mental illness is an issue that Tetra Tech Coffey’s NZ HSEQ Advisor Zoë Crook is helping to address.
Tell us about why workplaces should be supporting the prevention, early intervention and recovery around mental illness.
We have a primary duty of care to our people to look after their health and safety. This also means their mental health just as much as their physical health. And while it’s our legal obligation, it goes much further than that because it’s our moral obligation too. It is just the right thing to do, and we want to look after our people. So, by training our people on what to look out for if someone is struggling and how they can best support the person then it’s a real positive.
What is Mental Health First Aider Training?
Mental Health First Aid Courses are designed to raise awareness around mental health and reduce the stigma that can often surround mental health issues.
The course teaches you the skills and the knowledge to recognise and respond to somebody experiencing mental health concerns. People can learn how to provide initial first aid and guide someone to access the professional support they might need.
It is important to note that it’s not about teaching someone to be a counsellor or a psychologist, but rather giving people the confidence to detect a person experiencing a mental health problem, including how to approach them and start a safe conversation.
Most courses are only one day in duration, and the face-to-face training consists of in-depth discussions, lessons and scenario-based activities. Like the physical first aid training, you are encouraged to complete a refresher every two years.
I recently completed my Mental Health First Aider Training and I feel it has really enhanced my role to safeguard the health and wellbeing of my colleagues.
So who should undertake this course?
Anyone can do this training. I recommend it for any manager or team leader who are responsible for staff, or for those who really want to improve their knowledge around mental health. This is reinforced by a recent publication by the World Health Organisation where their evidence-based research strongly recommended mental health training for people leaders in order to reduce emotional distress and improve work-related outcomes.
At Tetra Tech Coffey it is also available to other New Zealand staff who have expressed an interest.
It does come with a warning though; due to the sensitive nature of some of the content, the course isn’t suited for everyone. Some of the topics are quite confronting and challenging, so you need to have a certain level of resilience within yourself and be strong enough not to take on board what they are experiencing but guide them towards the professional help that is best for them.
That is the other benefit of the training, it teaches you how to look after your own mental health and well-being to ensure you aren’t overwhelmed with somebody’s situation.
Connect with Zoë via email firstname.lastname@example.org
“Potentially a mental health first aider could save somebody’s life. You could have somebody who is in real distress and with this training have the skills to take action and provide assistance that can help someone in need. That is incredibly powerful.”