Why is Mental Health First Aid So Important?
Mental Health Literacy
Churchill defined Mental health literacy in 2018 as ‘knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders, which aid their recognition, management, or prevention’. He also believes that it is severely lacking in the general population. Researchers believe this may serve to worsen the impact of mental health problems.
This lack of mental health literacy can be problematic for several reasons:
• It can mean a lack of self-awareness for individuals over the fact that they’re suffering a mental health problem
• Individuals may not realise the symptoms they’re experiencing are treatable
• Individuals may not know how or where to access treatment
• The stigma surrounding mental ill-health may deter some from seeking help
The prevalence of mental illness
If you think you don’t know anyone in your life who has or has had an issue with mental illness, chances are you just don’t recognise it.
The statistics tell us that one in five adults will experience a mental health problem each year. And that’s only counting the people who are diagnosed.
Here’s why we think everyone would benefit from mental health first aid.
Firstly, it will help you be aware of this rollercoaster ride, which plunges people into depression and anxiety attacks.
Mental health knowledge won’t stop you experiencing poor mental health, just like physical first aid doesn’t stop you injuring yourself. But it can give you the tools you need to know what to do about it.
That in turn makes you more available and aware when others might need support.
Knowing things like the fact that anxiety and depression are the most common mental illness in Australia, that women report these issues more than men, that a person experiencing a delusion through psychosis probably won’t be aware they are ill, is different from knowing how to approach someone and what support you might be able to provide.
Mental illness still carries a lot of taboo and stigma. And yes, some illnesses more than others. So, if you do think you don’t have people around you are experiencing poor mental health, one reason could be that your friend or family member has not felt comfortable saying anything.
And that’s another one of the reasons mental health first aid is important.
If your colleague falls over and breaks their arm, they probably won’t feel weird about asking you to help them. But if they’re feeling depressed or suicidal, they might not feel able to ask for assistance.
Mental Health First Aid teaches you to be the one who starts the conversation with someone you think might be a risk to themselves, so they don’t have to be the one who reaches out.
You might get it wrong and they’re not going to hurt themselves. Then you’ve done nothing more than maybe get a little embarrassed.
You could help save someone’s life by knowing how to ask and knowing where they can get the support they need.