Western Sydney health heroes learn how to have a life-saving conversations

Understanding how to talk about mental health is an important skill that many people can feel uncomfortable about and unprepared for, which can often mean a conversation never starts at all.

Staff across Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) are being given the opportunity to participate in a basic mental health first aid training course to ensure they can recognise and respond to people experiencing mental health problems.

The Mental Health First Aid course is being facilitated internally by WSLHD’s People and Culture Team and teaches staff the skills to feel confident about what to do next if someone says, “I’m not okay.”

WSLHD senior consultant for coaching & manager support Noel Posus said this free training is a fantastic opportunity for staff to learn how to support the mental health and well-being of fellow staff members, patients and carers alike.

“A mental health conversation can happen with anyone – it’s about checking in with people and actively engaging with their response,” Noel explained.

“Our staff who successfully participate in this program will be trained to know how support someone who is looking for that next step.”

The course, designed by Mental Health First Aid Australia, incorporates the use of case studies, videos, and other resources. It educates staff how to assist an adult who may be experiencing a mental health problem or crisis until appropriate professional help is received, or the crisis resolves, using a practical, evidence-based action plan.

The course will be run over two back-to-back days, offering monthly sessions until the end of the year. Certificates are valid for 3 years with refresher courses being available to keep your training up to date.

Noel stressed that although this course is a great course for staff to upskill, it does not train them to be counsellors, psychotherapists or allow them to provide treatment in any way.

“This course is not that different to a physical first aid training course where you are able to see someone in need and help them where you can until you find more appropriate resources,” Noel said.

“A first aid course does not qualify you as a health-care professional, much like this does not qualify you as a mental health professional. It is simply about learning how to have better conversations and connect them to further support such as a GP or crisis line.”

More than 120 WSLHD staff have already completed the training course and are now able to assist those suffering from new or existing mental health problems.

BMDH Human Resources director Gaye Wright has completed her First Aid Mental Health course and continuously encourages new and existing staff to undertake the training.

“In health you work in an ever-changing environment, and it is important to look for the signs and symptoms of poor mental health,” Gaye said.

“My whole team has their Mental Health First Aid certificate, and we make sure new recruits also do theirs.

“You don’t have to diagnose and person, you don’t have to be their saviour. You just have to know how to listen and how to help them connect to the right people. A little can go a long way.”

The People and Culture team are encouraging all staff members, particularly managers and those in a leadership position to undertake the Mental Health First Aid Training.

If you are a WSLHD employee wanting to get involved, search ‘Mental Health First Aid’ in the My Health Learning Portal.