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Balnarring Mental Health First Aid Program Review

by Brad Virgona and Caz Hatherly

We were among the lucky participants who managed to get a place on the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training program in Balnarring between 7-11 February 2022. As part of this program, we got to experience some beautiful scenery down on the Mornington Peninsula and on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings from 9am to 1pm we undertook the MHFA training course.

The MHFA course is designed to empower participants to provide better initial support to someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The course covers depression, anxiety, substance use problems and psychosis and teaches you how to recognise the areas of concern and respond with early intervention by following a simple, evidence-based action plan.

Mental Health Action Plan

A – approach the person, assess and assist with crisis
L – listen and communicate non judgementally
G – give support and information
E – encourage the person to get appropriate professional help
E – encourage other supports

For example, if a person is having a panic attack you can use the ALGEE action plan to assist the individual as a Mental Health First Aider.

Here’s an example of how you might use ALGEE with someone who is having a panic attack.

  1. Approach the person, look out for any crisis and assist the person with dealing with this. Find a suitable time and space where the people feel comfortable and initiate a conversation as the first aider if the person does not talk first up. Respect confidentiality and privacy
  2. Listen and communicate with the person and set aside any judgements about the person and their situation. Listen empathetically before offering options of help. Use verbal and non-verbal communication skills and allow the person to really hear and understand what’s being said and allow the person to talk freely about their problem without being judged
  3. Once a person with a mental health problem has felt listened to it is easier for the first aider to offer support and information. Support includes emotional support such as empathising with how they feel and giving them the hope of recovery and helping with tasks that might feel too overwhelming for them.
  4. The first aider can give information about the options available to help and encourage them to get appropriate professional help. Various options include medication and counselling or psychological therapy and family support, vocational and educational goals and assistance with income and accommodation.
  5. The first aider can encourage the person to use other supports, such as self-help strategies, support from family and friends, and support from other people who have experienced mental health problems.

There is a cute ALGEE Koala mascot that goes around the world with different organisations to promote the MHFA training course. The course concludes with 15 questions that you do in your own time to obtain the MHFA certificate which lasts for 3 years. Once the 3 years is up you can do a refresher to update the course training.

After each morning of training, we had lunch and then went for walks. One day we had lunch at the Coolart Park before walking through the Coolart Wetlands and Balnarring Beach and back to the accommodation.

On other days we had lunch at the Mornington beach and afterward went for a walk at Arthur’s seat and on another occasion, we went for a walk at Sweet Water Creek Nature Reserve in Frankston and had fish and chips for lunch by the beach and pier in Frankston.

Also, one evening we had a BBQ dinner at the public BBQs at Balnarring Beach.

It was an awesome 5 days away that had the perfect mix of valuable education and recreation.

Thank you, Out Doors Inc.

P.S. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming an MHFAider then you can book your place on one of the upcoming MHFA courses that Out Doors is running over the next few months. Visit www.outdoorsinc.org.au/mental-health-first-aid-course/ for more information about the course and to reserve your place.

References:
KitchenerBA, JormAF, KellyCM
Mental Health First Aid Manual 4th edition
Melbourne – Mental Health First Aid Australia, 2017

Photography:
Ben Ranasinghe
Out Doors Inc. Participant

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