According to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2017 report, Indigenous Australians experience higher rates of mental health issues than other Australians, with deaths from suicide twice as high, hospitalisation rates for intentional self-harm 2.7 times as high, and rates of high or very high psychological distress 2.6 times as high as for other Australians.
In 2012–13 in Western Australia, the age-standardised rate for Indigenous Australians aged 18 and over who reported high or very high levels of psychological distress was 29 per cent, compared with 11 per cent for non-Indigenous Australians.
Nationally, the age-standardised rate for Indigenous Australians aged 18 and over who reported high or very high levels of psychological distress in 2012–13 was even higher at 30 per cent, compared with just 11 per cent for non-Indigenous Australians.
Given these tragic figures, it comes as little surprise that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid Course (AMHFA) is an essential resource in the toolkit of those working on the frontline in Aboriginal communities: the course teaches first aid skills for helping indigenous people experiencing a mental health crisis, mental health problems or the early stages of mental illness.
For Simone Collard, Aboriginal Community Development Officer with Centacare Employment and Training, the Archdiocese’s premier education and training agency, the course has given her a better understanding and more awareness around mental health.
“The training has given us both more confidence when talking and dealing with students or clients experiencing mental health issues,” Ms Collard said.
“We have learnt to be more mindful of students’ behaviours, paying attention so that we can gauge their emotional and mental state for any early warning signs.”
The 14-hour AMHFA Course teaches Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander adults (18 years and over) how to provide Mental Health First Aid to friends and family: the programme’s format and content has been culturally adapted for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
community and is taught by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Instructors.
Areas covered include:
Developing mental health problems
- Anxiety problems
- Substance use problems.
Mental health crises
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviours
- Non-suicidal self-injury
- Panic attacks
- Traumatic events
- Severe psychotic states
- Severe effects from alcohol or other drug use
- Aggressive behaviours.
Not only do participants in the AMHFA course learn the signs and symptoms of mental health problems, they are also taught where and how to get help and what sort of help has been shown by research to be effective.
Participants who complete this training are eligible to complete an online Accreditation Assessment in order to receive a Mental Health First Aider Certificate of Accreditation valid for three years.