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Mental health first aid courses rolled out in Coromandel with help of St John

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First launched nationally in 2021, the mental health first aid course, aims to equip attendees with skills to deal with incidents. Photo / 123rf

Hato Hone St John is rolling out special mental health first aid courses in the Coromandel.

The ambulance and health service charity said the impacts of last year’s weather events had likely affected people “in ways they didn’t even consider to be a mental health issue”.

First launched nationally in 2021, the mental health first aid course, like a physical first aid course, aims to equip attendees with skills to deal with incidents.

Now, St John is delivering the courses in Whangamatā and Whitianga, thanks to the Thames-Coromandel District Council Mayoral Relief Social Recovery Fund, and the Hato Hone St John Hauraki-Coromandel District Committee.

Hato Hone St John community engagement coordinator for the Hauraki-Coromandel district Nikki Tyrrell-Baxter said the weather events paired with the closure of SH25A would have had an impact on people.

“Events like the State Highway 25 closure last year will have likely impacted people in ways they didn’t even consider to be a mental health issue.

Nikki Tyrrell-Baxter, Hato Hone St John community engagement coordinator for the Hauraki-Coromandel district.
Nikki Tyrrell-Baxter, Hato Hone St John community engagement coordinator for the Hauraki-Coromandel district.

“Feeling cut off from other parts of the country; choosing to stay in the area rather than make the long drive elsewhere to see friends and loved ones, these are all things that chip away at our mental health.

“Normalising the idea that everyone will need some help from time to time helps people to understand why it’s essential to have the skills to talk about it, and help others to talk about it too.”

She said the mental health first aid course was just as important as a traditional physical first aid course – if not more important.

“Much like it’s valuable to know how to bandage a wound or perform CPR, it’s also useful to know how to deal with someone having a panic attack or a depressive episode.

“It is thought to be more likely that participants will use the skills gained in mental health first aid on a daily basis than the skills from a practical first aid course.”

Tyrrell-Baxter said the course provides a framework for participants to recognise someone experiencing mental health concerns, and how to support them.

“The course helps people to understand that mental health is not just something that results in extreme cases, like suicide, for example, but that it’s something we all have, and are therefore likely to experience a dip at some point.”

The two mental health first aid courses in the Coromandel will be held on March 13 at St Peter the Fisherman Anglican Church at 7 Dundas St, Whitianga, and on March 14 at St John Whangamata, 102 Lincoln Dr.

They are free to attend, however registration is essential by emailing CEfranklinhaurakicoromandel@stjohn.org.nz as space is limited.

Tyrrell-Baxter said while there were just two courses for now, there was a potential for expanding the programme.

“We’re seeing how it goes. Obviously we want to make sure we’re taking feedback after each session to see what the impact is on the community. If we’re making a positive difference in people’s mental health resilience, then we’d like to keep going.”

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