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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific Mental Health First Aid courses are assisting mob identify mental health issues and helping individuals in crisis.
Rangi Hirini

13 May 2019 - 1:48 PM  UPDATED 13 May 2019 - 1:51 PM

A First Nations-specific mental health first aid course has provided over 600 Indigenous people with a better understanding of what mental health issues are and how to best assist somebody experiencing mental health issues. 

Following the success of their mainstream course, Mental Health First Aid Australia (MFAA) worked with First Nation’s communities and experts to create the specifically Indigenous program.  

Since its establishment in 2007, more than 60,000 people have completed the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid course. 600 more joined them over the weekend. 

For the past four decades Noongar woman Rosalie Kickett has worked throughout the Perth metropolitan area caring for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In the last 26 years, she’s directed her focus more towards the mental health sector and is now an instructor for the course. 

“I had this passion of going out and educating myself more on mental health,” she told NITV News. “The youth weren’t coping with a lot of the issues that were impacting on their wellness." 

Ms Kickett says the increased rates of youth suicides and potential harm of social media has made mental health awareness crucial.  

“We want to give people hope and to give them the resilience to be strong. It’s strong minds and strong spirits,” she said. 

The skills learned in the MHFAA course aren’t as physical as performing CPR or bandaging up a leg, explained MS Kickett. 

According to the MHFAA, the course teaches people simple, practical first aid skills such as listening and responding to help a family member, friend, co-worker or other person who is experiencing mental health problems. 

MHFAA told NITV News that communities are starting to recognise the value of understanding mental health and how it can help them support their friends, families and other community members. 

 “Having a mental health problem is just like having any other health problem… Being able to confidently respond to someone in a crisis situation, be that crisis related to physical or mental illness, is really important. It keeps people alive,” they said in a statement.  

Some of the topics discussed during the course include anxiety, depression, suicide, alcohol and drug problems, and psychosis. The company also offers specialised courses in suicide, self-harm, and gambling. Cultural protocols and maintaining cultural safety are also addressed. 

According to MKickett, the culturally appropriate nature of the course allowed Indigenous participants to feel safe and more engaged. Aboriginal people have different ways of working with our mob and our lifestyles are different, she said. 

“It’s all that intergenerational trauma and understanding … how we can assist and support our mob.”  

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact: Lifeline on 13 11 14 or a local Aboriginal Health Service. There are resources for young people at Headspace Yarn Safe. Indigenous Australian psychologist services can be found here.  

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