New Course Aims to Lower Mental Health Risks

Press Release – Mental Health First Aid

Has the person sitting at the desk next to you been behaving unusually oddly? Is your elderly parent inexplicably depressed? Do you have a friend being uncharacteristically abusive or manipulative? These may indicate early signs of mental health distress.New Course Aims to Lower Mental Health Risks

Has the person sitting at the desk next to you been behaving unusually oddly? Is your elderly parent inexplicably depressed? Do you have a friend being uncharacteristically abusive or manipulative? These may indicate early signs of mental health distress.

A training programme that helps people recognise the early symptoms of mental health problems is being launched to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week (October 10-16).

Developed by long-time mental health campaigner Graham Roper, the programme is being rolled out to companies, community groups and individuals nationwide.

Graham Roper says mental health first aid explains how to recognise early signs and symptoms, provides initial assistance and guides someone towards appropriate professional help. Such programmes are commonplace overseas, he says, but are a first for New Zealand.

“The cost of mental health problems to organisations in this country is in the tens of millions of dollars. That may be partly because of the stigma that prevents people from discussing their problems with those close to them and making them reluctant to seek appropriate help.

“Greater awareness of the issue will enable people to recognise the signs earlier and to ask for help when they need it,” he says.

Graham Roper, who has himself overcome mental health problems, says when faced with an accident, people generally know how to help only when they have received first aid training. They may also unwittingly make matters worse by not knowing the correct procedures. Similarly, in a mental health crisis situation, the helper’s actions may determine how quickly the person with the problem receives help and/or recovers.

Mental health first aid training programmes cover normal versus abnormal behaviour, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, psychophy (bad not mad) and addictions.

A year in the development, the programme is based on successful models used overseas with topic areas adapted to suit New Zealand’s unique health, cultural and rural/urban demographics.

Graham Roper says mental distress is a normal part of life but most of us are unaware of the factors that may lead to mental illness if early intervention is not available.

“The course provides participants with the tools to manage such situations as panic attacks, and are tailored for their specific circumstances,” he says.

The course is appropriate to teachers, parents and community groups as well as companies and organisations.

ENDS

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