The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) suggests at least 1 in 4 adults will experience mental health difficulties at one time or another, but many will receive “little or no help” when in an emergency. In contrast, the majority of those with physical health difficulties will be offered physical health first-aid by the public or a hospital in an emergency.
This is essentially because mental health crises are often viewed differently from physical health emergencies due to “ignorance, poor knowledge, stigma and discrimination.”
The World Health Organisation’s Psychological First Aid (PFA) Guide sets out 3 simple action steps you can take to help support those who are suffering from a mental health crisis:
This involves looking out for signs of safety – is someone likely to harm themselves or others because of their current mental health state? Do they have any obvious urgent basic needs that need to be addressed? Keep on the lookout for people with serious distress reactions that might be in need of help, and approach them or call for help, depending on the situation.
There is still often a stigma surrounding mental health. This means many of those suffering from a mental health crisis may not always proactively seek help. If you suspect someone might need support, approach them and ask if there’s anything you can do to help – even if it’s just listening. Actively listening to people and being empathetic and respectful of their needs and concerns can help them to feel calm and relieved of what may have been a very heavy burden they carried alone.
Connect those in crisis with loved ones and other social support. People suffering from a crisis event may have a range of essential needs, including food, shelter and health services. Identifying what services and support networks are available in your area; providing the relevant information to those affected by crises; and linking them to these services and supports, family, friends, and other social supports, will help them to cope and regain control of their lives.
Want to find out more about how you can provide mental health first-aid? TrainSmart Australia will be holding a range of workshops in Perth in October dealing with mental health. A Registered Training Organisation (RTO) providing nationally-recognised vocational training, TrainSmart Australia also offers a CHC53315 Diploma of Mental Health, CHC51015 Diploma of Counselling and a CHC52015 Diploma of Community Services that can help you provide mental health first-aid to those in need.