AITHM James Cook University

12 November 2019

In June this year, AITHM assisted Thursday Island-based clinical nurse consultant, Helen Reeves, to foster mental health first aid skills in the community.

The AITHM Clinical Research and Training Facility provided a free venue for the intensive two-day mental health course delivered by the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service, Mental Health and Other Drug Services.

‘The aim of the Mental Health First Aid course is to help people – both professionals and members of the public – to feel more confident and competent to offer first aid to people who may be either developing or have a mental illness,” said Ms Reeves.

The course explores the signs, symptoms and risk factors for a range of mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression, as well as less common psychiatric illnesses.

“We look at who might get these illnesses and why. Then how to utilise the Mental Health First Aid Action Plan to help someone,” said Ms Reeves.

The free course attracted participants from all walks of life, including those who encounter people with diagnosed or suspected mental health issues through their work roles, as well as general community members keen to support the health of friends and family.

“It was great. They were a lovely group and really gelled well together,” said Ms Reeves.

The venue contributed to the relaxed atmosphere during the course.

“Everyone commented on how pleasant the environment was. We all enjoyed the outside eating area at lunch time. Even during the course, we were able to open the doors and experience the fresh air, which local people really appreciated,” said Ms Reeves.

“People also commented on the local artwork featured in the facility. That was part of the welcome.”

The Mental Health First Aid course has received excellent feedback from participants, both online and in person.

“While walking, I recently encountered a man who had attended the course. He stopped me and told me how useful he had found it,” said Ms Reeves.

Word of its success has already prompted a request for the course to be staged in Bamaga, in the Northern Peninsula Area, and the Weipa community has also expressed interest.

Ms Reeves would also be happy to offer the course again on TI, if there is sufficient interest.

“Mental health worries will affect a number of people in our lives. It is good to have the skills and confidence to offer support,” she said.

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