World Mental Health Day event explores psychological first-aid

14 Oct, 2016
World Mental Health Day event explores psychological first-aid
L-R:Te Pou te Whakaaro Nui CEO Robyn Shearer, Host of the Nutters Club Mike King, Waitemata District Health Board Programme Lead and Acting General Manager Helen Wood, and AUT Dean of Health and Environmental Sciences Max Abbott

World Mental Health Day (WMHD) was celebrated on Monday 10 October with a thought-provoking event at AUT’s North Campus.

The event focussed on the WMHD 2016 theme of psychological and mental health first-aid, highlighting the fact that we each have a role to play in the health of our social networks. A panel of industry-leading speakers talked about how to provide effective psychological first-aid, and the current climate of mental health in New Zealand.

AUT Professor Max Abbott, former president of the World Federation for Mental Health, said society puts a lot of emphasis on physical health literacy and the same should apply to mental health. “It’s about offering support, listening and guiding people to appropriate help,” says Professor Abbott.

Mike King, former comedian turned mental health educator, emphasised that there’s more work to be done in overcoming stigma surrounding mental health and challenging the stereotypes at play in New Zealand culture. “We need more training to increase empathy and understanding of mental health, and to encourage people to seek support,” he said. “The harden up, stay staunch kiwi culture isn’t helping us to normalise problems and make it okay to ask for help,” he says.

The prevalence of mental health challenges emerged as a key theme throughout the talks. “Half of all New Zealanders will experience a significant mental health disorder in their lifetime,” says Professor Abbott.  “So we need to be okay with asking for help and giving support.”

To provide effective support for someone experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis, Professor Abbott recommends following the “ALGEE” five-step plan below:

  • A: assess for risk of suicide or harm. If you think someone may be suicidal, ask them directly about their thoughts of suicide and what they are planning. If they have a specific plan, they need help right away – call 111, your local mental health crisis assessment team, or go with them to the emergency department at your nearest hospital. Stay with them until they get help.
  • L: listen nonjudgmentally.
  • G: give reassurance and information.
  • E: encourage appropriate professional help.
  • E: encourage self-help and other support strategies, such as exercise, relaxation and meditation, and engaging with family, friends, faith, peer support and other social networks.

WMHD falls within New Zealand Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year focusses on connecting with nature as another effective source of self-care. For more information, click here.