Most adults are trained to provide physical first aid to someone in need, but what about someone having a panic attack or struggling with addiction?

Families see first-hand the severe consequences of mental health issues on veterans in our community. Research published by the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation (GMRF) has showed how 12 hours of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for family members may be helpful for supporting veterans with mental health concerns.

In 2018, GMRF launched the Mental Health First Aid Study, sponsored by Medibank’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund, to look at what family members can do to help veterans in immediate need. The study was published in early 2021 with positive and insightful key findings.

Some veterans may not feel comfortable asking for help. This leaves family members such as parents, partners or even children potentially isolated when supporting their loved one with mental health difficulties. Over time, the isolation and shame can become emotionally exhausting and lead to high rates of depression and anxiety in family members. The stressors that come with providing emotional support to veterans with mental health conditions are unique and adequate training for family members is currently limited.

The GMRF study evaluated how specifically family members may better support veterans with mental health conditions using MHFA training. The study was conducted with over 50 participants from veteran households attending MHFA training session run by an Accredited MHFA practitioner.

Standard MHFA training involves sharing information on common mental health conditions including depression, anxiety and substance abuse. The course focuses on providing real world skills through a five step action plan. The 12 hour course includes practice sessions where participants are taught how to apply these steps in a range of different situations. It gives people the knowledge and skills to offer first aid to people experiencing mental distress, just as you would help someone with a physical injury. As with physical first aid, MHFA is designed to provide immediate care until professional help can be accessed.

Overall the study showed significant improvements of MHFA knowledge in family members and an increase in their confidence to provide assistance. Key research findings indicated that 90% of participants who were followed up reported being able to support their veteran family member and believed the support made a positive impact. Others responded that they felt prepared and confident to deal with someone suffering from a mental health problem. This outcome clearly shows the value of MHFA program for veterans and their families. Many attendees stated that they would recommend this program to other people in similar situations.

GMRF research shows by using well-informed MHFA training, the support received at early stages of distress can hopefully give veterans with mental health conditions the help they need.

If you or someone you know would like to take MFHA course, Open Arms in partnership with RSL, runs frequent session around Australia. Visit the website for more information

If you are in need of assistance, call

Open Arms 24 hour 365 day hotline on 1800 011 046

Lifeline 13 11 14

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