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LawCare Coordinator for Ireland, Mary Jackson, is now a fully qualified mental health first-aider, having trained on a two-day course in London run by Mental Health First Aid England last week, on February 16-17.
Alongside other members of the LawCare team, Communications Advisor Yvette Murphy and Administrator Anna Buttimore, Ms Jackson learned how to identify and assist someone who is developing a mental health issue or is in a mental health crisis. These issues include depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, psychosis and substance abuse, while crises covered are suicidal thoughts and behaviours, self-harm, panic attacks and aggressive behaviours, among others.
Ms Jackson, who also works on the LawCare helpline, also learned how to apply the ALGEE Action Plan. The mnemonic stands for Approach, Assess, Assist; Listen and communicate non-judgmentally; Give support and information; Encourage appropriate professional help, and Encourage other supports. The plan is a blueprint for dealing with these issues, both in the workplace, or with friends or family.
“The course was very interactive, with plenty of role-play and team exercises, which really helped with learning,” explains Ms Jackson. “We also had the opportunity to watch a number of videos of real-life situations, where people who have struggled with a number of mental health issues, from depression to anxiety to psychosis, told us their stories. They were very powerful and moving, and worked well to help understanding.”
The Mental Health First Aid programme was created in Australia in 2000, and was adopted by the Scottish government, and then by England, in 2006. Since then, it gradually spread to many other countries, including Ireland, in 2015.
The MHFA course is open to people from all professions, and more information is available at www.mhfaireland.ie
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