Justin Scanlon – Founder Hearth Support Services
“Mental Health First Aid Training” A Top Priority at Hearth!
When I founded Hearth Support Services in August 2017, I was very concerned about the physical wellbeing of the Hearth Support Workers and the entire Hearth team.
Three years down the track, employee physical wellbeing is always top of mind, but what I have come to realise is employee mental health is even more important.
I believe most at risk of mental health issues are Support Workers. This is can be attributed to.
- the isolated nature of their work at times, combined with
- the challenges of interfacing at times with marginalised family situations, combined with
- the challenges presented by the nature of the disability.
What Is Hearth Doing About Employee Mental Health?
Our first response to employee mental health back in 2018 was to provide professional employee assistance (EAP) to all employees. This program gives the employee the option of undertaking up to three anonymous face to face professional counselling sessions at no cost to the employee.
We thought we could do more, so in addition to EAP our second initiative in 2019 was to embrace “Mental Health First Aid Training”. Mental Health First Aid Training teaches members of the public how to help a person developing a mental health problem (including a substance use problem), experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. Like traditional first aid, Mental Health First Aid does not teach people to treat or diagnose mental health or substance use conditions. Instead, the training teaches people how to offer initial support until appropriate professional help is received or until the crisis resolves.
Our approach to Mental Health First Aid Training was for one of the Hearth Team to become an “Accredited Mental Health First Aid Trainer” so that they in turn could train the entire Hearth team on Mental Health First Aid. Madi Braim General Manager – Inner, Outer East & Bayside Melbourne volunteered to undertake the training in 2019 so she could add this to her list of accomplishments. So far in 2020 Madi has been able to train our entire team of Relationship Managers. The next step is to roll out the training to lead Support Workers which we hope to complete by the end of 2020.
Mental Health in Australia
The statistics surrounding mental health in Australia are quite shocking i.e.
“Almost half of all Australians aged 16 to 85 years — 7.3 million people — will experience mental illness at some point in their life. The most common conditions are:
- affective disorders, especially depression
- substance use disorders, especially alcohol use”
Source; Australian Government Department of Health
I believe that Mental Health First Aid Training is essential, so essential that eventually Mental Health First Aid training will one day be mandated for all NDIS Support Workers. In the meantime, at Hearth we always strive to put the wellbeing of its employees and participants as its number one priority, and as such, have included Mental Health First Aid training as part of its standard practice.
The latest innovation we are working with, that is introducing a process of “reflective practice” into Hearth, for the Relationship Managers and Support Workers, facilitated by a leading psychologist.