Project proves a success

Kate Withers

More than 700 high school students, teachers and parents are now armed with tools to identify, address and seek help with mental health issues after the successful delivery of a community-driven project.

The Mental Health First Aid Training for Schools in the Latrobe Valley was one of three projects chosen under the state government’s Pick My Project initiative.

With more than 220 votes, the MHFA received the highest number of votes in the Latrobe Valley and the project was brought to life with a $55,000 government grant and an additional $4200 from Latrobe Health Assembly.

The working party was made up of project lead Caryn Rule, Traralgon Community Development Association members Bronwyn Kerr and Anne Wilson and mental health first aid facilitators Ann Hamden and Susanne Lampitt.

Students in Years 8 and 11 received the training, which was launched in March and wrapped up earlier this month.

“The project was launched at at Traralgon College and since then, 36 TMHFA courses and 6 YMHFA courses have been delivered to more than 700 students and about 150 teachers and parents,” Ms Rule said.

“As mental health nurses, Ann, Susanne and myself are strong advocates for prevention and early intervention of mental illness.

“We were keen to provide the internationally accredited MHFA training to the local schools, beginning with Kurnai College in Morwell, Churchill and FLO, Traralgon College and Lowanna College.

“Usually costing several thousand dollars, we could provide this to the schools at no cost.”

Feedback gathered from course participants indicated improved knowledge about mental illnesses, where to seek help and confidence in approaching someone who may be experiencing ill mental health.

Students reported a marketed increase in ability to identify mental health professionals and services that be accessed for help.

To mark the successful completion of the project, the working party and representatives from participating schools attended a celebratory afternoon tea at the Traralgon Court House.