Thanks to the opportunity provided by Where there’s a Will for people to complete Mental Health First Aid training, we’re now at the point where we estimate that 1 in 40 adults in the Upper Hunter know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness and how to help those in need.

If there’s ANYWHERE else in the world with this level of knowledge we’d really like to know about it!!

We seriously don’t think there’s another community working as hard as this one to tackle the very real problem of mental illness –  a problem that the World Health Organisation forecasts will be the greatest burden to mankind by 2030 (ie not that far away!).

So you can only imagine our delight that we now have our local Police Officers getting in on the act.

This coming Friday and Saturday twelve of our finest men and women in Blue will complete Mental Health First Aid, with the training funded by money raised during the Belltrees v Rouchel Charity Cricket match earlier this year.

This training will complement the Mental Health Intervention component of their education to become police officers which addresses how to recognize and deal with a mental health issue when they are called out to a job.

Chief Inspector Guy Guiana, who has already completed the training provided by Where there’s a Will, says if police are aware of early signs of mental ill health it may trigger a different way to respond to the situations they encounter.

“If we’ve dealt with an adolescent on multiple occasions, we may be able to say to families that the issue goes beyond being a bad person, that it’s about someone needing assistance with their mental health,” Chief Inspector Guiana said.

“You can never have too much training in the area of mental health especially when you’re a first responder.  We have a deep appreciation for the community providing us with the opportunity to complete this training.”

Chief Inspector Guiana also said that they are already feeling the impact of working in a community that has a greater knowledge about mental illness.

“With the broader community having a better general understanding of mental health issues, people are starting to identify that things aren’t always a police matter. With the level of knowledge that now exists, some of those early interventions are being redirected to health rather than police, people aren’t calling the police first time every time.  The approach of the general public as well as the police is changing towards mental health.”

Where there’s a Will founder Pauline Carrigan is  thrilled by this latest development.

“We applaud Chief Inspector Guiana for showing the leadership to make Mental Health First Aid a priority for his officers,” Mrs Carrigan said.

“We really hope other organisations and businesses will follow the police and encourage staff to take the time to complete this course in the same way they’d encourage staff to complete a regular first aid course.”