Research shows how mental health training can change lives

A report from the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation

Families see firsthand the severe consequences of mental health issues on veterans in our community. A recent study from the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation (GMRF) has revealed 12 hours of mental health first aid (MHFA) training for family members may be helpful for supporting veterans with mental health concerns.

In 2018, GMRF launched the Mental Health First Aid Study, sponsored by Medibank’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund, to look at what family members can do to help veterans in immediate need. The study was published in early 2021 with positive and insightful key findings.

Some veterans may not feel comfortable asking for help. This leaves family members such as parents, partners or even children potentially isolated when supporting their loved one with mental health difficulties. Over time, the isolation and shame can become emotionally exhausting and lead to high rates of depression and anxiety in family members. The stressors that come with providing emotional support to veterans with mental health conditions are unique and adequate training for family members is currently limited.

The GMRF study evaluated how specifically family members may better support veterans with mental health conditions using MHFA training. The study was conducted with more than 50 participants from veteran households attending MHFA training sessions run by an Accredited MHFA practitioner.

Standard MHFA training involves sharing information on common mental health conditions including depression, anxiety and substance abuse. The course focuses on providing real-world skills through a five-step action plan. The 12-hour course includes practice sessions where participants are taught how to apply these steps in a range of different situations. As with physical first aid, MHFA is designed to provide immediate care until professional help can be accessed.

Overall, the study showed significant increases in MHFA knowledge among family members and an increase in their confidence to provide assistance. In addition, 90% of participants who were followed up reported being able to support their veteran family member and believed the support made a positive impact. Others responded that they felt prepared and confident to deal with someone suffering from a mental health problem. This outcome clearly shows the value of MHFA program for veterans and their families. Many attendees stated that they would recommend this program to other people in similar situations.

GMRF research shows by using well-informed MHFA training, the support received at early stages of distress can hopefully give veterans with mental health conditions the help they need.  

If you or someone you know would like to take MFHA course, Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling, in partnership with the RSL, runs frequent sessions around Australia. Visit the Open Arms website for more information.  

If you would like to learn more about GMRF or would like to support our research efforts, please visit the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation website

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