St John Launches Mental Health First Aid

Elliot Steel |

While most New Zealanders are comfortable openly discussing physical health, the stigma of talking about mental health remains. St John launches its Mental Health First Aid training course today to help reduce that gap, stating that we can all step up to help the one in five Kiwis facing a mental health challenge each year.

St John National Programme and Development Manager, Gabrielle Wildbore M.Ed says that developing Mental Health First Aid is a natural fit for St John.

“St John Ambulance Officers are the eyes and ears of the health system and are responding to growing numbers of mental health-related call-outs year on year. Many of these call-outs are people in a state of crisis. The provision of Mental Health First Aid aims to facilitate open conversations early, and highlight agencies who can help to help prevent people from reaching that crisis point.

“St John is committed to improving the health outcomes of all New Zealanders, and as the largest and most trusted provider of First Aid training, we wanted to build on our training expertise to help open up and demystify the conversation around mental health and wellbeing.

“When someone walks in with an arm in a sling or on crutches, most of us naturally ask: what happened? how can I help?

“When the struggle is not visible, despite it having no less impact, a whole range of social, environmental and personal factors kick in that actively work against us wanting to reach out. It’s the moment we most need to communicate, but the very time we find it most difficult.

“We’ve developed Mental Health First Aid to play our part in giving Kiwis a framework and the confidence to have these conversations, to know that they are doing the right thing in offering initial support, and also to know how to direct people to professional help.”

St John Mental Health First Aid has been carefully designed for the New Zealand context, drawing on trusted international and local best practice resources and research. Due diligence, peer review and customer scrutiny were followed by a three-month pilot.

The new course provides a basic understanding of the relationship between mental health and disorder, and potential red flags, strategies for managing the initial support of friends, family and colleagues safely, and information on obtaining immediate assistance if necessary.  

The St John Mental Health First Aid training course is designed to be accessible for everyone and will cater for individuals and groups from early September. About 450 organisations and members of the public have already expressed interest in completing the course.

To find out more, visits www.stjohn.org.nz/MHFA

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