Mental Health First Aid

Have you ever noticed that we spend a lot of time learning about how to deal with physical emergencies, and almost no time focusing on what to do with mental health crises? If you think about it, most people know the basic principles of first aid: DRSABCD, how to put someone into the recovery position, or how to create a makeshift sling. But most people are completely clueless when somebody is having a crisis with their mental health. Shugging, offering a cup of tea, and telling them that it won’t seem so bad in the morning won’t quite cut it when someone is falling apart around you. We are proud to say that this pharmacy Australia also spends time focusing on mental health first aid. We are going to let you in on some basic principles.

Note: Every case is incredibly different, nuanced and specific. Please understand that this is general advice and if your therapist or GP has given you a plan, you should trust their expertise.

Ideally, we could prevent mental health emergencies by treating the root of the problem. If you have had abnormal mental functioning (high anxiety, depression or some form of psychosis) for more than two weeks, it would be worth seeking some assistance. There is nothing heroic about going it alone. In Australia, the process is as follows:

  1. Visit your GP and describe how you have been feeling. They will do a basic assessment to see whether you might qualify for a Mental Health Plan. This is a wonderful initiative from the government that slashes the price of seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist.
  2. Call up a psychologist of your choosing and organise a session. 

Many employers will be part of an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) which will allow you a certain number of free visits to a psychologist. The best part is, your employer will never find out who has accessed this benefit, so you can go safe in the knowledge it is entirely confidential.

There are also a number of things you can do to stabilise your mood before you reach a crisis.

  • St John’s Wort: This is not as gross as it sounds. This is a herb that has been used to help stabilise mood for centuries (that’s right, depression is not a 21st century affliction). Studies have shown it to be moderately successful in boosting mood in the short term. It is a wonderful option for you if you have just felt a bit down as of late, and would like a little help in balancing out your emotions. You can pick up St John’s Wort from this online pharmacy Australia. However, it should not be used in conjunction with prescribed antidepressants. If in doubt, trust your health experts.
  • Maintain an active lifestyle. It really is a silver bullet to most things. Aside from the fact that you might get a boost from feeling trim, and being social, exercise releases endorphins which are responsible for elevating your mood.
  • Eat well. High fat sugary foods may make you feel great in the short term, but in the end, your blood sugar level spikes and then drops and you are left feeling more flat than you were beforehand. The same can be said for drinking water. It helps you stay full and washes the toxins from your body.
  • Sleep. This allows your brain to process the onslaught of the day and to prepare itself for what awaits tomorrow. It gives you energy levels which will reduce your symptoms of depression.
  • Laugh. This sounds like the worst advice to give someone who is feeling a bit down on themselves, but there is more to it than just ‘cheer up’. The physical act of laughter releases dopamine into the brain which will balance out your mood. Whether that means you need to invite a particular person over, or you need to binge The Office (UK, not US) for a few hours, so be it.
  • Help someone else. Assisting other people combats the self absorption that characterises anxiety and depression. Charitable acts have been scientifically proven to lift your self-esteem and mood. If you can work this into your weekly routine, it is a sure fire way to help you see more of the world, and less of yourself.

Let’s imagine that despite our best efforts, we or someone we love is in the middle of a mental health crisis. What do you do? You remember ALGEE

Approach the person in a safe, non confrontational situation. You should then begin assessing and assisting them with what they are going through.

Listen and communicate non-judgmentally. Often, giving your opinion about their feelings is unhelpful. No matter how much you disagree, now is not the time to tell them that these thoughts are ridiculous. Active listening becomes important here. Phrases such as “So, if I’ve heard you right, you feel…” If possible, empathise with their feelings, not with your judgement: “That sounds so hard, and I want to thank you for being so open with me.”

Give support and information. This might involve services available to them through school counsellors, the Employee Assistance Program, or just the Mental Health Plan

Encourage them to get professional help. Mental health is not something that can be navigated solo. It is important that you avoid diagnosing them. Don’t say “it sounds like you have depression to me”. That is beyond your skill set. It is the physical first aid equivalent of deciding to perform surgery in the moment. Don’t do it. Leave it to the experts.

Encourage other support structures. This is not something that can be dealt with alone. Bring in friends, colleagues and family to help the person feel as supported as possible.

Please check out Mental Health First Aid Australia for more information on courses. It could save a life just as much as a physical health first aid course or an online pharmacy Australia. You never know until you find yourself in the moment.


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