Mental Health First Aid

So this week I presented at the Enactus National Conference and Competition in Sydney for the Griffith University Enactus team. As in my previous post, we did a great job and through Enactus have positively impacted on thousands of lives. It is events like these that make me incredibly proud and happy to be involved in Griffith University, Griffith Honours College, Griffith Enactus, and Mental Health First Aid. What a wonderful world we live in.

As Vice President of Mental Health First Aid for Griffith Enactus, I am passionate about de-stigmatising and humanising mental health. This is what I presented:

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Advocacy gives us the power to educate, to empower and to change. Through advocacy, we make the invisible, visible. You can’t see mental illness on an x-ray… but that doesn’t make it any less real. Mental illness can affect anyone; your child, your wife, your colleague – even you. One in five Australians aged 16-85 have a diagnosed mental health problem. Now take a look around you and tell me that mental health doesn’t affect you or anyone you know.
In Australia, half of all people who experience mental illness have their first episode by age 18. Our workshops target youth mental health in order to address these issues when they first arise. Untreated or unrecognised, mental health issues can lead to further health and well-being problems, often of greater severity. By targeting youth, we hope to lessen this health burden and the economic and social cost to society through early intervention and support. We start small, with a kernel of knowledge, and nurture this to grow and spread awareness of mental health issues and their solutions. It is from these little things that big things grow.
Griffith Enactus runs free workshops to certify youth-focused community groups in Mental Health First Aid. By facilitating these sessions, we effectively mitigate economic factors that might otherwise hamper the spread of information. We educate participants about common mental health issues, how to recognise them, and where to find help.
As knowledge of mental health issues and the workshops we run increases, so does demand. The enhanced awareness and greater community support that stems from our workshops provides a lasting impact through knowledge transferred from person to person, branch to branch, tree to tree. By educating small, active community groups, we help to educate and support many more.
People who were previously stigmatised, who slipped through the gaps, or whose problems went unrecognised, can now be bolstered by a growing community support and understanding. One participant stated: ‘All my life I have been ashamed as I thought mental illness was something to keep hidden. I’m so pleased to now have a language to use so that my situation gains a level of acceptance in social settings’. Our workshops do change lives. Through advocacy, we can make the invisible, visible.

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My presentation was so well received by the panel of judges (all industry leaders, CEOs or equivalent – including Staples, CSIRO, Woolworths, etc.) that these comments were made:

“The Mental Health First Aid resource and exposure is something that society shuns. By bringing this out to the open you will be exposing and educating – well done team.”

“Great project based on social need.”

“(The) mental health project is a great one from a social well-being aspect.”

Regarding Griffith Enactus effectively empowering our target audience – “this was strongest in Mental Health First Aid.”

And finally, a personal note from one of the judges – “Elise presented well.”

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