NSW announces ‘largest mental health first aid program’ in the world

The New South Wales government has unveiled plans to train 275,000 people in rural areas in mental health first aid.

The announcement of the $130 million program comes as helplines continue to receive record numbers of calls from people struggling to work from home and homeschool during the pandemic.

Regional Minister for Mental Health, Youth and Women, Bruni Taylor, said people in community centres, libraries, schools, sports clubs or social clubs would be encouraged to receive mental health first aid training.

Bruni Taylor announces the world’s largest suicide prevention training program in remote and rural areas.(supplied)

“The US Army trained 150,000 people in one program, but our plan is much more ambitious than that.”

The UK placed 140,000 people, including a range of professions from hairdressers to employees of global companies, through the Mental Health and First Aid England (MHFA) course in England in 2018-2019.

Subsequently, the number of people who received this training increased to 500,000 people, or about one in every 100 adults.

Evidence from this program showed that the training was good for raising awareness and removing the stigma associated with asking for help.

I also found that sometimes the people who got the training weren’t always the most effective at providing support.

The NSW funding will also be used to provide more appointments for psychology and psychiatry services, address the spike in eating disorders and self-harm presentations, and free up more mental health beds in the wake of recovering from COVID-19.

“Alarmingly, recent studies have found that up to 70 percent of men say they are less likely to discuss mental health issues with a doctor,” Taylor said.

“But they may turn to a friend, a co-worker, or someone at the football club.

“There are no doctors or psychiatrists available in many parts of the state, but we can have well-trained community members in small towns or communities who will be the gatekeepers.”

First aid training will also help participants determine if the person they are talking to needs professional help.

“As we navigate economic recovery from this pandemic, we must look at new ways to support people’s mental well-being along the way,” she said.

“Our focus for the next two years will be on supporting our youth and our families, building the capacity of the system to meet demand and supporting our communities.”

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