Skip to main content

Table 3 Stories of providing first aid that involve the work setting.

From: Experiences in applying skills learned in a mental health first aid training course: a qualitative study of participants' stories

Story 4
The situation: [I'm currently] working with a family who lost a child due to an accident. 'Mum' has had a history of post natal depression and is now experiencing an episode of depression that has lasted in excess of six months. She is taking medication but sometimes cannot afford to get it.
What you did: I offered non-discriminatory, non-judgmental support. I made gentle suggestions about ways she might get child to school, helped her get a Christmas tree up (for the kids) which alleviated her guilt around not feeling like having a Christmas and so on.
Effects on that person: I think she was very grateful that someone seemed to understand and was willing to help her achieve little things rather than expect her to "get her act together." I have become someone who she doesn't have to put on an act for or pretend she isn't home.
How relations changed: Previously when people tried to 'help' she would not answer the phone or pretend she wasn't there. This has not completely changed: recently I visited at an agreed time and no-one answered the door. I could hear music and wondered whether she was in fact there but didn't open the door.
Longer term effects on the person: I feel that we have developed a relationship that is based on gaining small positive outcomes. She is a long, long way from where she would like to be, but we now have a dialogue based on her being able to tell someone how she is feeling and having someone listen.
How the course has changed you: It has made me aware of the signs and symptoms of depression. I have been able to work from where the client is at rather than having specific expectations of their contribution to assistance.
Anything else: I believe that the MHFA course has been particularly valuable to me. I am not a trained counsellor or therapist but in my work with families whose children have disabilities it is likely that some of my families will suffer from depression from time to time.
Story 5
The situation: I work for a Job Network Provider. Many of the long term unemployed suffer from depression and other mental health problems. One example a client was always injuring himself on jobs and on the latest job (the employer said) he wouldn't stop crying. There was also another female client who was suffering from Crohn's Disease who had always been very nervous and worried.
What you did:I referred the woman with Crohn's disease to a holistic GP (as her previous GP did nothing). This new GP referred her to counselling, got her on anti depressants and is looking after her health.
Effects on that person: I saw the difference in this person and she felt the difference of feeling better and learning to cope with life stressors. Last time I saw her she had improved a lot.
How relations changed: I have always been a naturally caring person. I care for that client and most of my clients.
Longer term effects on the person: Good! She not only was getting better but realised she can make a difference to her own life by using the appropriate skills and getting help. She also realised that there are people who care and she was not alone.
How the course has changed you: It confirmed my previous knowledge of Mental Health and gave me a few more ideas of what to do when someone needs help.
Anything else: I think it should run regularly as the population needs to learn how to deal with these sorts of situations and it creates an awareness and perhaps takes away the fear of the unknown.
Story 6
The situation: I was working for a charity organisation for work experience to achieve a Diploma of Community Welfare. I was an interviewer for people of low income or on benefits, when a client entered the room (I was not allowed to participate but just sat there and listen to what the other two interviewers said). This client spoke very fast and told us about the people who he lived with burning his clothes in the lounge room in the middle of the floor. The other two interviewers did not know how to react in this situation: I could not control myself I had to speak up. I just asked him a simple question as whether he was taking medication, he said he wasn't. Then the other two interviewers asked about his doctors, etc.
What you did: By just asking a simple question about medication made the other interviewers realise he had a mental illness.
Effects on that person: He told me that he didn't need his medication any more and he was no longer ill. However, I think that he must have gone to the doctor because I saw him a few weeks later in a different situation and he was acting quite normally.
How relations changed: I really do not think they have changed as I only know him as a client and I have a good understanding towards people I interview. The only change would be the improvement because of medication.
Longer term effects on the person: The change would be for the better because of medication.
How the course has changed you: There has always been a stigma attached to mental illnesses, it has opened my eyes about how I and others feel toward these people. I am more understanding.
Anything else: Most people do not have an understanding of mental illness. If more people could participate in the Mental Health First Aid course it would be a better world. I think the course was a great value to me personally.