Mental Health First Aid Training

One of our mission goals is to provide our residential communities and staff with care, support and enrichment in academic, cultural, personal, social and recreational matters.

Back in 2007, we understood that a way to foster a supportive and caring campus culture was to focus our attention on destigmatising mental illness – and that's when the Mental Health First Aid Training (MHFA) and safeTALK Suicide Alertness programs came into play.

Most of us have some grasp on common physical health problems, but many of us don't really understand the causes and symptoms of mental health problems. This lack of knowledge and understanding:

  • adds to stigmatising attitudes about mental health
  • prevents people from seeking the right help early
  • prevents people from being able to provide the appropriate support – simply because they don't know how.

About the MHFA program

The MHFA program was developed in 2001 at the centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University by Betty Kitchener and Professor Tony Jorm. In 2005, the program moved to the ORYGEN Research Centre at the University of Melbourne.

The MHFA program is an independent not-for-profit company since 2012, and is run by Mental Health First Aid Australia – a charity focused on health training and research.

Mental Health First Aid is the initial help given to someone developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional treatment is received or until the crisis resolves.

Every year, about one in five adult Australians experiences a mental health problem and many people suffer a mental illness for a long time before they seek help. The most common and disabling mental health problems are depression, anxiety disorders and psychotic disorders. Alcohol and drug problems frequently occur with these illnesses. 

The MHFA program has been found to be effective in improving mental health literacy, reducing stigma and increasing helping behaviours. 

Read more about the Mental Health First Aid program.

Our journey with the MHFA program

Since we began offering mental health first aid training to our residential support staff in 2007, we've noticed a steady increase in the level of care and support amongst our campus community members. 

The training became mandatory in 2008 for all of our Residential Support Team (RST) members and general staff. From 2022 MHFA training for general staff only was replaced with Livingworks START, an online suicide prevention training program.

Winning the 2013 Mental Health First Aid Australia (MHFA) Award in the Education sector was a proud honour, and acknowledged how valuable our program is to our residential communities and staff. From its initiation by MHFA Australia in 2016, MRS has also been a proudly been an accredited ‘Gold Skilled Workplace’ - in recognition of the training and support provided to our staff.

Intended outcomes of the MHFA program

Here are some reasons why participants receive great benefits from the Mental Health First Aid Training: 

  • It raises awareness of just how common mental health issues are amongst communities 
  • It helps to de-stigmatise mental health problems 
  • It teaches participants how to recognise if a person is suffering from a mental health problem 
  • Participants learn how to support someone suffering from a mental health crisis or condition when professional help is not available. 

MHFA course content 

Our course teaches skills in helping people suffering a mental health crisis or in the early stages of mental health problems, including the following crisis situations: 

  • suicidal behaviours
  • acute stress reaction
  • panic attacks
  • acute psychotic behaviour.

We teach participants about:

  • depression 
  • anxiety disorders
  • schizophrenia
  • bipolar disorder.

Participants will learn:

  • how to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health problems
  • where and how to get help
  • what sort of help has been shown by research to be effective. 

About the safeTALK program

In 2012, we added safeTALK suicide alertness to the training regime. Most people with thoughts of suicide either directly or indirectly invite help to stay safe – alert helpers know how to identify and work with these opportunities to help protect life. 

An internationally recognised program, safeTALK:

  • helps participants to recognise the signs of suicidal thoughts
  • provides participants with skills to approach people and connect them with the appropriate services  
  • increases suicide alertness
  • helps participants become active in preventing suicide and promoting life
  • stresses safety while challenging beliefs that inhibit open talk about suicide.

Participants learn how to develop life-saving skills in the safeTALK program such as:

  • learning skills to contribute to building a suicide safer community
  • challenging attitudes that inhibit open talk about suicide
  • noticing and responding to situations where thoughts of suicide might be present
  • moving quickly to connect the person with thoughts of suicide with someone trained in suicide intervention. 

Read more about the safeTALK program.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental crisis or suicidal thoughts, then call Lifeline on 13 1114