A reported one in five New Zealanders over the age of 18 are likely to experience mental health problems in any given year .
With a number like this, it is not something that can be ignored. This is why the Mental Health Foundation run an awareness week each year; to get conversations about mental health happening.
However Ko Awatea and Counties Manukau Health (CM Health) knew that there was more that could be done; which is why they brought the Australian Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) programme to New Zealand. This programme is designed to give help to someone developing a mental health issue such as depression, anxiety, or substance misuse or a mental health crisis, like panic attacks, self-injury, aggressive behaviour. It is the help that is first given prior to the appropriate professional treatment being received or until the crisis resolves.
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To make a real difference the programme needed to go beyond just Counties Manukau. So in the first week of June, Ko Awatea trained thirteen MHFA facilitators to deliver this programme to other New Zealand regions to help reach our greater population.
Participants in the three day course were provided with the resources and knowledge to take MHFA into their local communities and the organisations they represent and initial feedback from them was very positive with comments including:
“A literature review I completed last year on psychological distress in undergraduate nursing students highlighted the importance of Mental Health First Aid.”
“The workshop covered both the areas of how to become a good factiliator and MHFA.”
“Just an excellent course, the ripple effects from training us, and releasing us to go out and deliver the course now ourselves will have lasting impact.”
Now that these facilitators are armed with the tools they need, they will be able to rollout the programme to a wider audience and increase the opportunity for more communities. They will empower these communities to provide first response support and make a real difference to New Zealanders who may be experiencing mental health distress.
Source:  Te Rau Hingengaro: The New Zealand Mental Health Survey, 2006