ESA explores ‘mental health first aid training’ with new welfare manager

A very good idea for first aid training is the introduction of mental health first aid training. Canberra First Aid are looking into being able to provide mental health first aid training. Keep an eye on us.

A new welfare manager is looking at “mental health first aid training” for Canberra’s paramedics and firefighters.

In committee hearings on Tuesday, ACT ESA Commissioner Dominic Lane said the manager would lead a new mental health package over 2017.

“What the new package will do it tie together a few things,” Mr Lane said.

“We hope to rollout the next stage of our peer support program, which is looking at mental health first aid, and the main thing of course is the recent employment in the welfare program means we will have someone in ESA who will focus directly on this part.”

Mental health first aid programs run similar to physical first aid courses, but teach people how to deal with mental health circumstances until they find professional help.

Courses in mental health aid aim to teach skills in recognising the signs and symptoms of mental health problems, risk factors for these problems and how to deal with a crisis situation involving suicidal behaviour, panic attack, stress to trauma, overdose or threatening psychotic behaviour.


Mr Lane said while all emergency services were vulnerable to mental health issues due to their traumatic work, the new welfare manager will focus on long-time staff members who had developed issues over time but may not have sought help.

“The data we are seeing is that people are feeling cumulative affects of stress and trauma from many years in the role,” he said.

He said the new project would formalise some of the ongoing mental health training already provided.

ACT Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman welcomed the new management position and welfare package.

“We are looking at how we can provide as much welfare support as we can,” Mr Gentleman said.

“They are at that frontline, they do see trauma in their day-to-day-life and it is important we can support them through those processes.

A study by the University of New South Wales estimated around one in ten emergency workers suffer from PTSD, although rates are likely to be higher if retired workers are considered.

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