St Mary\'s MHFAThe team at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Toukley recently brushed up on their Mental Health First Aid in a course run by Catholic Schools Office accredited trainers through Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Australia.

Kevin Williams, the Principal, attended a class for senior leaders within the Diocese last year, and thought all the staff should attend it too.

He approached the co-ordinators to ask them to run the course over two “twilight” sessions after school hours, and all staff, including educators, office staff and support staff, attended.

“It gave us a really shared and contemporary understanding of mental health,” said Mr Williams. “It was a wonderful opportunity, with the major point being that it was a shared understanding.”

Staff learned how to recognise a potential mental health issue in another person (student, friend, parent, family member, colleague) and were brought up to speed with current research into mental health. They were taught strategies to help people in need and have used these strategies within the workplace, the classroom, and with parents and grandparents.

“The course covers skills and situations you need in your everyday life, not just in education,” said Mr Williams. “Everyone is touched by mental health issues in some way.”

The MHFA commenced running courses in 2000 and now runs regular courses to help workplaces and communities recognise and manage mental health issues.

“Staff have been very grateful and you can tell that it helped them not just as educators but also as people,” said Mr Williams.