Murwillumbah to host first Mental Health First Aid Course


WHEN WE think of first aid we often think of emergency or life-threatening situations, but according to Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) trainer Wendy Carcaillet, mental health first aid is about early intervention to prevent potential problems.

Ms Carcaillet (pictured below) is offering a tailored course to Tweed Shire residents to help them cover a range of important mental health issues.

“We cover issues such as depression, anxiety, bi-polarism, panic disorder, suicide, some non-suicidal behaviours such as self-harm and we also go into some of the addictions,” she said.

Just as normal first aiders need to know their limit when it comes to what they can and can’t do, Ms Carcaillet said it is important that mental health first aiders are aware of what resources and professionals they can call on – should a situation be beyond their training.

“The whole point of mental health first aid is that you stay with the person, you console them or you sit with them until the situation deescalates or until professional help arrives,” she said.

Ms Carcaillet said she believes that the training provides invaluable tools to equip people to assist the many people in our community who are suffering from mental health issues.

“A simple situation may be that you notice someone at work who has had a lot of absenteeism and are down in the dumps and very withdrawn.

“You might suspect there’s depression or something going on in that person’s life.

“As part of the course we teach simple strategies that enable you to be able to pull the person to the side and start a conversation by saying something like ‘I’m a little concerned about you’.

“You are taught how to approach some of these situations with direct language and statements that can’t be misconstrued.

“So, if you are concerned someone is suicidal you would ask directly ‘are you considering suicide?’”

Ms Carcaillet said the course is designed to not only improve people’s knowledge of mental health illnesses and their treatments, but also to build confidence in how to deal with situations in daily life.

“People doing the course will gain a knowledge of appropriate first aid and not only strategies but also the confidence to provide first aid to people suffering mental health issues,” she said.

Mental Health First Aid courses were first developed nineteen years ago by Australians Betty Kitchener and Professor Tony Jorm.

Due to the success of the program in Australia, they are now offered in 25 countries.

“Betty and John are a husband and wife team who are both psychologists and they realised that an awful lot of people that are not actually psychologists could be helpful in the community because people suffering from mental health don’t need a diagnosis, they just want help,” she said.

Ms Carcaillet said after years of working in the health industry as a naturopath, herbalist, nutritionist, yoga therapist and educator, she became interested in mental health because of the impact she saw it having on people leading a healthy lifestyle.

“The number one reason a client seeks naturopathy or yoga is because they are tired and stressed, often underlying this state is depression or anxiety,” Ms Carcaillet said.

“I realised that a lot of my client’s physical issues could be helped if they were in a good mental state as they could then exercise and eat properly.

“This was one of the reasons I started looking into mental health first aid”.
MHFA is a standard qualification for some industries and workplaces and takes two days to complete.”

Courses will be held in Murwillumbah on February 16 and 17 and February 19 and 20.

For more information please phone: 0411 393 367 or email: or visit

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