Sat, Aug 24, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Everyone should know the basics of mental health first aid

By Anthony Jorm

While the Mental Health First Aid course’s rapid expansion has helped to improve the situation in many communities, there is much left to do. In the short term, all developed countries should aim to achieve 1 percent participation rates in mental health first-aid courses, as Australia has.

In the longer term, countries should aim to match participation rates in conventional first-aid courses. In the past three years, 11 percent of Australia’s population has completed such a course, partly owing to requirements that people in certain positions, such as childcare workers, have a first-aid certificate. Requiring that people in particular occupations — including high-school teachers, nurses and police officers — acquire a mental health first-aid certificate would significantly enhance participation, thereby strengthening support for those who are struggling with mental health problems.

Such certifications are even more important in the developing world, given the limited availability of mental health professionals. Pilot work in rural India shows that the mental health first-aid approach can be successfully adapted to the needs of communities with limited resources.

In developed and developing countries alike, the scope of the problem is too large to be left exclusively to mental health professionals. Every member of the community must be empowered to protect and improve their own mental health, and that of those around them.

Anthony Jorm, a former president of the Australasian Society for Psychiatric Research, leads the Population Mental Health Group at the Melbourne School of Population Health, University of Melbourne.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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