Mental Health First Aid

Lets have a conversation about saving lives!

I was recently speaking to a friend about issues around mental health, and the impact to the individual, families and communities. Somehow the conversation drifted to the topic of suicide and suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

My friend said to me “I truly believe that people who take their own lives are so selfish, there is no problem in the world that equates to ending your life”. As I sat there listening to this friend narrate the story of people she knows who have taken their own life, who she perceives as “ungrateful” and “going to hell” – passing judgement - I could feel the urge to immediately stop the conversation as it was becoming too “uncomfortable”.

I kept asking myself questions - How can I change the perception of people like her who believe suicide and suicidal thoughts and behaviours are an abomination? That suicide is simply unforgivable?

Unfortunately, her perception of suicide is very common. There is already existing stigma around people who occasionally struggle with everyday life due to various mental health issues and other social factors. There are good days and bad days, but some days are much, much worse.

When it comes to suicidality many people suffer in silence because of the “shame” of admitting to themselves and others around them that they feel like “life is not worth living”. That they may get called “selfish” “uncaring” and all other names. They carry the guilt of feeling how they feel, increasingly feeling isolated from the “accepted community judgement and perceptions”.

People who think about suicide are in pain, a silent pain that feels like a bottomless pit, it has no end and can be all too consuming and debilitating. To them it is not necessarily wanting to end their own life, it is more about wanting the pain they feel to stop.

This is how I explained it to my friend during our long conversation, and when she said to me “But how do you know this? How do you know it is emotional pain they feel?” I said to her “It is because I have known that pain”. She looked at me with almost unbelieving eyes – “but you are one of the strongest people I know, how, why…..”. She had no more words at that moment.

You see, there is no such thing as a “typical” sufferer, and those who do feel these thoughts are often very adept at hiding it even from their closest friends and colleagues – which is why it can come across as a seismic shock when someone within our circle of contacts succumbs to their internal demons.

I am grateful for the conversation like the one I had with my friend and; over the course of years, many others; because conversations such as this can help remove the stigma associated with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Conversations such as this can change perception and conversations like this can help build understanding and compassion.

Conversations like this can help save a life.

How can we stem the tide of this preventable death by suicide if we are unable to talk about it? As for me, this is a conversation that must be heard!

Here are some facts about this suicide we should all be aware of:

  • According to Australian Bureau of Statisticsdata on suicide deaths in Australia, over 3,000 people died by suicide in 2015. That equates to around 8 people who tragically take their own live in Australia every single day.

  • Over 65,000 Australians make a suicide attempt every year

  • Around 400,000 Australians experience suicidal thoughts every year

  • Around 35,000 Australians are admitted to hospital for suicide-related injuries every year

  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between 15 and 44 years of age.

  • Many people who die by suicide have experienced a mental illness.

  • Often people who are considering suicide are dealing with a combination of poor mental health and difficult life events.

Individual and community’s perception of suicidal behaviour can play an important role in preventing suicide or the degree to which suicidal behaviour is disguised. The great majority of people who experience a mental illness do not die by suicide.  However, of those who die from suicide, more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder. It is critical that we must learn how to have the conversation about suicide and how to safely support someone thinking about suicide.

To tie in with the National R U OK Day on Thursday September 14 - which inspires and empowers everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and to support anyone struggling with life by starting the conversation around mental health – I am hosting “The MHFA for Suicidal Person”. This will provide you with practical skills and knowledge about how to safely support when someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours and allows you to practice these skills in a safe environment.

You will learn:

·        Understanding accurate information about suicide in the Australian context.

·        How to identify signs and risk of suicide

·        First aid guidelines of how to help when someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours

·        Practicing these skills in a safe environment.

MHFA for the Suicidal Person Course is not a postvention course and is not recommended for individuals recently bereaved by suicide. The MHFA for the Suicidal Person Course is not a therapy course but will help you to learn more about suicide prevention and how to have the conversation that can save a life as well as where to get help and support.

Course Format:

  • This is a 4-hour face to face course to be held on Thursday 14 September 2017 from 1pm to 5pm.

Please Note: We run this course in small group numbers which allows creation of a safe and comfortable space for participants and allows us to provide support and care needed. Reserve your space now.

Pricing: $99 (incl. GST) per person        

Course participants receive a Handbook to keep and receive a digital Certificate of Completion when you submit online feedback.

Places are limited. For registration or more information, please contact us on 0411 330 382 or send us email to

Completion of this course does not accredit you to become Mental Health First Aider - you need to complete the 12 HR Standard Mental Health First Aid Course if you want to be accredited as a Mental Health First Aider.

If interested in the accredited 12 Hr Mental Health First Aid Course – our upcoming public course is on Friday 10 November 2017 and Saturday 11 November 2017. Spaces are limited so please reserve your booking here.

Lending a helping hand during mental health distress through Mental Health First Aid

Mental health pain is as real as any physical pain to any part of the body. However, unlike physical pain where sometimes the injury is visible or physically and behaviourally expressed, mental health pain can be a very hidden, isolating, deep dark pain that may seem to have no end. Whether it is physical pain or mental health pain both require some sort of intervention to ease the pain or stop the pain and without intervention it can lead to a crisis situation. The importance of knowing what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and who to call for support can be a matter of life and death.

Mental health issues are more common than you think. One in five of us will experience a common mental health illness such as depression, anxiety or alcohol and other drug misuse in each year. This means someone in your close friend circle, work mate, family, community, or even yourself may suffer the impact of mental health illness at some point in your life.

Just like physical first aid and CPR, mental health first aid is a life skill, the course teaches you to identify the early signs of developing mental health issues and to know of local mental health services and support systems available as well as ability to respond effectively during a mental health crisis situation; such as someone experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours; until professional help is accessed.

For Sharon Orapeleng, a mental health professional and Director of Psyched Solutions with accreditation to deliver the mental health first aid course, this issue is personal. “

“Mental health issues are the reality of many Australians every day and helping to create awareness around the impact of these issues is something I am very passionate about, because it can save a life” she said.

Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety a few years ago Sharon knows first-hand the debilitating impact of mental illness and how early intervention can help save a life.

“As a mental health professional working in the mental health system, and wearing many hats as a mother, wife, community leader, advocate and consultant; I was the one who always helped anyone who needed help, always doing for others; and when a car accident turned my life around, no one outside my immediate family noticed I was struggling, no-one noticed I needed help” She said.

“It was easier to talk about the physical pain, the back surgery, the struggle to walk, the physical healing but the emotional pain remained and until I received the help needed.”

“You never know what is around the corner, your life can change in a second and knowing what to do, how to help yourself or lend a helping hand to another person during the struggle with mental health issues is critical.”

Sharon has been delivering mental health first aid course for over five years to the public, government and non-government organisations such as Australian Red Cross and many others. In 2016 she teamed up with Brisbane rugby community through the newly formed organisation “Rugby Unite” to raise mental awareness in the community of rugby as their Mental Health First Aid Course Instructor.

“The aim of the Rugby Unite organisation in partnership with Mental Awareness Foundation is to have every rugby club in Queensland to have a trained Metal Health First Aid Officer including players, coaches, referees and club members, to create a supportive community that allows for mental health issues to be talked about and help people access much needed help” Sharon said.

To register for Sharon’s upcoming accredited Mental Health First Aid Course on Friday 30 June and Saturday 1 July 2017 in Ashgrove, Brisbane contact Sharon at Psyched Solutions, or call 0411 330 382. Direct link for booking is here

To learn more about Mental Health First Aid go to

Mental Health First Aid for the Suicidal Person - A new short Course!

The international theme for World Mental Health Day in 2016 is: Dignity in Mental Health - Psychological & Mental Health First Aid for All:

To tie in with the World Mental Health Day, Mental Health First Aid launched a new course 'MHFA for the Suicidal Person' a half day (4hrs) stand alone face-to-face MHFA course which teaches participants how to apply suicide first aid skills to save a life.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently released data on suicide deaths in Australia. In 2015, over 3,000 people died by suicide, that equates to around 8 people who tragically take their own live in Australia every single day. 
These statistics on suicide are incredibly sobering and highlights the need to break down stigma attached to this taboo subject. Suicide and thoughts of suicide is a reality for many people every single day.
We are pleased to be able to offer this short course on 'MHFA for the Suicidal Person' which allows us to focus the attention on this topic and teach people how to provide first aid skills to anyone with suicidal thoughts and behaviors and support the person to access professional help.

Having a conversation about Suicide breaks down the stigma and saves life!

Contact us to arrange for the 4hrs - MHFA for the Suicidal Person course for your organisation or community.

If this topic has caused any concerns for you or someone you know, please call the following helplines
Lifeline Australia                         13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service           1300 659 467
Kids Helpline                               1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia                    1300 78 99 78
Looking for support and advice, call beyond blue - 1300 22 4636
 Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) - 131 450

Have a great Mental Health Week!
Sharon Orapeleng, Director and Trainer
Psyched Solutions

Suicide: Dispelling the Myths and Changing the Conversation!

Warning: This blog contains material about suicide which may be triggering to some readers.

“Suicide” is one of the last remaining taboo topics in an age when nothing no longer seem off limits. Not many want to openly talk about it ‘just in case it may put thoughts of suicide in people’s mind’ they may say. However the reality is that suicide touches the lives of many people and has devastating impact on family, friends, colleagues and community. Many people take their own lives every day in Australia and around the world. In 2013, about 6 people died by suicide every day around Australia, that is around 2,500 people who took their own lives. Approximately 75% of those who died by suicide were males and 25% females in 2013. Women are however 4 times more likely to attempt suicide with hospital data for the 2008-2009 financial year indicating that 62% of those who were hospitalised due to self-harm were women.

These statistics are incredibly sobering and highlights the need to break down stigma attached to this taboo subject. Suicide and suicidal ideation is a reality for many people every single day. Just recently on social media (Facebook) I have been witnessing a number of viral posts about suicide, one of them that struck the cord with me is this one below;

“Many people think that a suicide attempt is a selfish move because the person just does not care about the people left behind. I can tell you that when a person gets to that point, they truly believe that their loved ones will be much better off with them gone. This is mental illness not selfishness. TRUTH: Depression is a terrible disease and seems relentless. A lot of us have been close to that edge, or dealt with family members in a crisis, and some have lost friends and loved ones. Let's look out for each other and stop sweeping mental illness under the rug. If I don't see your name, I'll understand. May I ask my family and friends wherever you might be, to kindly copy and paste this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. Hope to see this on the walls of all my family and friends just for moral support. I know some will!!! I did it for a friend and you can too. You have to copy and paste this one, no sharing. Thank you” (Author Unknown)

I have seen many friends sharing this above statement on their walls.  This highlights the power of social media in breaking down the walls on these sensitive topics such as suicide and mental illness. A very welcomed change! However there are still a number of myths associated with suicide and the discussion around it can quickly get hijacked by those who are misinformed about the topic which can have devastating impact on those bereaved by suicide. The viral post above touches on one of the most common myths associated with suicide which labels victim of suicide as “selfish, not caring etc.” This labeling of the person who has died by suicide as selfish or not caring fails to take to account the fact that research has consistently shown a strong link between suicide and depression, with 90% of the people who die by suicide having an existing mental illness or substance abuse problem at the time of their death.

There are many more myths about suicide, here are some of the most common:

Myth: People who talk about suicide don’t actually do it

Fact: Many people who complete the act of suicide spend considerable time prior to the act, talking about it

Myth: Asking a person who is suicidal whether they are thinking of taking their own life will make them do it

Fact:  By giving the  person who is suicidal permission to discuss their feelings, is often the best opportunity to make them aware that somebody cares about their life and give them hope for life.

Myth: Only certain types of people commit suicide

Fact: Suicidal thoughts and actions can affect anyone from any socio-economic group, religious or racial background or age

Myth: Suicidal people want to die

Fact:   People who are suicidal just want to end the intense emotional and/or physical pain they are experiencing

 This clearly highlights the need for more public awareness about suicide. We need to have the capacity to identify signs of symptoms of a developing mental health issue such as depression and be able to respond to a crisis situation such as someone thinking of suicide. How do you appropriately provide support needed for someone who finds the courage to tell you that they are thinking of taking their own life? How do you give someone hope for life who life has ran them into a rut and they see taking their own lives as the only way to make the hurt stop? How do you support those who are left bereaved by suicide?

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It is important to talk about it so we can understand how to prevent it.

Join us at our next Mental Health First Training on the 6th – 7th November, 2015 in Brisbane as we discuss about what you can do to support someone in a crisis situation such as having suicidal thoughts and behaviours as well as understand the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues and what you can do to help. Help us break the stigma associated with mental health illness so we are able to help ourselves, families, colleagues and community.

This could be one of the most important decisions you may ever undertake, to learn an important life skill that will not only help you, but more importantly someone in need close to you.

Book here

I look forward to seeing you at the training!


If this topic has caused any concerns for you or someone you know, please call the following helplines

Lifeline Australia                         13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service           1300 659 467

Kids Helpline                               1800 55 1800

MensLine Australia                    1300 78 99 78


Looking for support and advice, call beyond blue - 1300 22 4636


Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) - 131 450