Trish Thomas, Principal Master Instructor, MHFA Trainer Profile;
Q: What inspired you to become a MHFA Instructor and how long have you been delivering the courses?
After completing my Psychology degree, I went on to do my Masters in Rehabilitation Counselling where I was researching early intervention programs tailored to mental health. I came across the MHFA program and knew straight away that I wanted in! I’m passionate about raising awareness around mental health and breaking down stigma, which is exactly what MHFA sets out to achieve. I’ve seen the difference the program can have on those who have taken part in the training, both in their own personal lives and with assisting others struggling with mental health concerns. It’s invaluable training that certainly broadens your outlook. I have been training both face to face and online now for the past 3 years.
Q: Why do you think Mental Health First Aid training is so important for financial professionals?
I think mental health education is important for everyone, yet we know there is a strong association between mental health problems and financial difficulties. This relationship is complex and can go both ways, with mental health problems leading to financial difficulties, and financial difficulties increasing the likelihood of developing mental health problems. Professionals who work within the financial sector are in a prime position to notice early signs of mental health conditions developing in their clients. By being equipped with the skills and knowledge from MHFA training, they can support and guide their clients to receive appropriate help. This is really important as research has shown us the people are more likely to receive help if someone they know suggests it, and early help can result in less impact on a person’s life.
Q: What makes you so passionate about your work as an MHFA Instructor for the Counting on U Program with Mentally Well Workplaces?
I think it’s fantastic and long overdue that mental health education be aimed to the workplace, particularly to professionals who have a higher likelihood of interacting with clients and colleagues impacted by life’s challenges, such as financial difficulties. The Counting on U Program offers the additional relationship building training along with the MHFA training, which is aimed at increasing our own self awareness and strengthening communication skills and relationships.
Q: What are 3 things you like to focus on and do exceptionally well when delivering Mental Health First Aid courses?
- I like to create a safe and comfortable environment right from the start that encourages participants to engage and discuss topics with ease and confidence.
- I focus on ensuring the content is understood by everyone, and enhance content with examples that I have experienced in my own work with individuals which strengthens understanding.
- Be prepared to spend extra time on content that is emotionally heavy, such as suicide. I find this is really important as suicide is one of the most confronting topics to talk about, I like to make sure that participants questions are all answered and they feel as comfortable as possible with the key components of the training
Q:What are your own self-care practices for staying mentally well?
Laughter, laughter, and more laughter! Along with Exercise and social interactions, oh and my chocolate Labrador!
Having a good laugh goes a long way, even at my own expense – which is generally instigated by my adorable children!
I call exercise my “medication”- it helps my mood, motivation and my general outlook. And exercise for me means any type of activity that gets me moving. Being out in the great outdoors also helps, especially by a river or at the beach.
Q: Why would you recommend finance professionals, small business owners and employees in general become accredited Mental Health First Aiders?
I believe that MHFA is a program that everyone would benefit from, just like learning physical first aid. Mental illness impacts just under 50% of the Australian population in their lifetime, it does not discriminate and tends to present itself in our prime working years, therefore we are all going to be exposed to it in some point of our lives. This in itself shows the importance of learning MHFA and knowing the signs of declining mental health, so we can reach out and encourage help seeking for those in need. Learning MHFA also helps to break down stigma, I look forward to the day where we are talking about mental health with the ease that we talk about physical health!