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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Training

Most of our Skill Hire staff working in APY Lands communities at some stage are impacted by someone dealing with mental illness.

Last month MHFA training was organised for our CDP 2IC’s, RSAS (SAS, SAO and Mentor) and RASAC (Regional Anangu Services Aboriginal Corporation) Community Patrollers who deliver services in Indulkana and Mimili. Three more workshops will be conducted in May for our staff in the other five communities across the APY Lands where Skill Hire has offices.

Attending this workshop will give our staff tools to help assist when dealing with complex situations. We already have staff currently assisting people with mental illness, offering an ear to listen as support or guiding people to seek medical assistance through the clinic.

National Employment Services Association (NESA) who provided this training are funded through the Government to provide and deliver training to RSAS (Remote School Attendance Strategy) providers. NESA arranged for Indigenous Consulting Group to deliver the MHFA Training by Indigenous couple Willma Farmer and Wayne Coles (husband and wife), who have been in the industry for over 30 years.

The MHFA workshop topics included the various types of mental health illness, such as anxiety, depression and suicide. The workshop utilised videos, role play and discussion about these topics. The groups were divided into men and women to assist with discussions. One of the many important facts that our staff learnt is that a change within someone’s attitude or demeanour could be a symptom that the person may be suffering a mental illness.

Part of the training process was for participants to share stories with the trainers and each other, about mental illness they have been exposed to and the process they had followed to assist someone dealing with symptoms. Participants informed the trainers that any staff members that are dealing with a mental illness are linked to Nganampa Health and or Aged Care.

Participants also receive support and assistance with medication and are aware that there is aid for them through their employer or other community providers. EAP assistance is available for all Skill Hire employees.

The Trainers mentioned that statistics reported mental illness is higher in Indigenous communities across Australia. We are hopeful that these issues may improve as awareness and communication about mental illness becomes more open. There are people around the world who are sharing their stories about their mental illness to ensure that people stop feeling they’re alone.

During the workshop video clips were shown of Indigenous people in Australia who have a mental illness and how they overcame their illness (depression, anxiety, suicide). Participants enjoyed watching the videos and then sharing stories about identifying how they dealt with their illness and who guided them through it. One Skill Hire staff member, Renae enjoyed sharing stories with Willma and listening to Willma’s stories about her past and what she went through. Renae was happy to share that she felt she gained by sharing stories and whether they were good or bad experiences it was very healthy for her to discuss them. Renae also wants to gain a certificate to add to her resume about Mental Health awareness.

We are looking forward to the May scheduled workshops for Pipalyatjara, Murputja, Amata, Ernabella and Fregon.

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