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Opening up about mental health at work


26 October 2020 at 6:47 pm
Mike Davis
Mental health first aid training is a great way to ensure that your workforce can support each other during difficult periods, writes Mike Davis. 


Mike Davis | 26 October 2020 at 6:47 pm


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Opening up about mental health at work
26 October 2020 at 6:47 pm

Mental health first aid training is a great way to ensure that your workforce can support each other during difficult periods, writes Mike Davis. 

It feels like you’ve suddenly tripped and fallen into a deep dark hole with no end in sight. This was my experience upon entering a depression recently. I was riddled with uncertainty, shakiness and indecision as I attempted to push through and keep working. 

Getting out of bed became a daily torment as did focusing on meeting regular work deadlines. Even harder was keeping social arrangements with friends and colleagues. I was regularly told that I “lacked my usual spark” by those who cared about me, or that I “seem really flat, is everything ok?”

One in five people will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. No matter how you conceptualise this, it is a significant percentage of us. We are now at work more than ever despite working from home. With reduced commuting time, expectations have gone up with people spending more hours on work, albeit from the home setting. 

COVID-19 has also meant more people than ever are experiencing poor mental health and reaching out for help. The Commonwealth health department recently reported a 31 per cent increase in Victorians help-seeking via Medicare funded GPs, psychologists and psychiatrists.

I was lucky that some of my colleagues and friends had been through mental health first aid training. They were able to listen to me compassionately and give useful suggestions as to how I could seek support and embark on a recovery roadmap. 

Mental health first aid training

Mental health first aid (MHFA) is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem, experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. MHFA teaches people the skills to help someone who they’re concerned about.

The first aid is given until appropriate professional treatment is received or until the crisis resolves. Since July 2019, 62 participants have completed MHFA with TaskForce. The majority of these participants are professional people who work in the welfare/community services/education sectors. Here is some feedback from MHFA sessions:

“This was one of the most interesting, engaging and informative courses I have ever completed.”

“I feel more confident in responding to mental health problems that occur at school with students, parents, volunteers and staff.”

“As awareness of mental health increases it’s great to be able to do a course like this that dispels many myths and better equips us to be able to respond better.”

Mental health first aid training is a great way to ensure that your workforce can support each other during difficult periods such as the current COVID-19 lockdown environment that we find ourselves in. 

It is worth remembering that for every 100 staff members, 20 or more may be experiencing poor mental health at any given time. 


Mike Davis  |  @mikedav84

Mike Davis is head of strategy at TaskForce Community Agency. TaskForce is a not for profit, providing wraparound support and compassionate care to vulnerable youth, adults and their families in South East Melbourne.

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