In this update we take a closer look at some of the key days that occur during the month of March. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we sat down with five truly amazing women to explore the link between women’s well-being and happiness.  We also showcase Fernwood Fitness Clubs and acknowledge and congratulate their commitment to a holistic approach to female health and wellbeing.

In recognition of World Bi-Polar Day we take a closer look at this often-misunderstood mental illness that affects as many as 1 in 50 Australians each year. Finally, we round-off our second update by providing MHFAider tips and resources.


Fernwood Fitness
Stepping into women’s mental health
and fitness

This month, to celebrate International Women’s Day, we’d like to acknowledge and congratulate Fernwood Fitness Clubs on their commitment to a holistic approach to female physical health and wellbeing.

Founded more than 30 years ago, Fernwood now operate close to 70 health and wellness clubs with more than 70,000 members Australia-wide. Their goal is to empower women to shine, by giving them the confidence they need to succeed in all they do. This goal saw Fernwood introduce a new wellness program ‘Empower’, which includes topics such as stress management, goal setting and sleep health. 

The team at Fernwood knew that in order to successfully deliver a program grounded in mental wellbeing, coaching staff needed the skills and confidence to identify and support members who may be experiencing a mental health problem.

That’s how the relationship between MHFA and Fernwood was first formed. Now, 3 years on, over 300 staff have completed MHFA training.

Read more about Fernwood Fitness Clubs and the positive impact of integrating MHFA training into holistic wellbeing and organisational practices.


‘Women, wellbeing and the pursuit of happiness’

In Australia, as many as 1 in 3 women will experience struggles with mental health at some point in their life. The prevalence of these concerns means that you will likely know family, friends and co-workers who are experiencing such challenges. Do you know how to help them? You may also be experiencing some of these issues yourself. Do you know where to find support?

The incidence of depression, anxiety, and conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and issues with body image, non-suicidal self-injury and eating disorders, disproportionately affect women. Understanding these conditions and having the skills and confidence to respond is key.

This March, to coincide with International Women’s Day and International Happiness Day, we have developed an article exploring the mental health and happiness of women in Australia. We have also interviewed five women working in mental health on the topic of happiness.

Read our article and interviews to find out more.


Stop! Misunderstanding bipolar disorder

We get it, mental illness can be confronting and difficult to discuss. It can be even harder to know how to recognise signs and support someone experiencing symptoms or troubled times. Bipolar disorder is a mental illness often misunderstood, yet it impacts as many as 1 in 50 Australians each year.

For someone with bipolar disorder, the day-to-day challenges of managing their symptoms and environment can significantly impact their relationships, work and social participation. It can also impede day-to-day living and self-care. On top of this, stigma can prevent people from getting the care they need or from living life to their full potential. These people may be our family, friends, colleagues or members of community. We can respond with empathy, understanding and care.

Bipolar disorder is likely caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The good news is, that with the right treatments, a person experiencing bipolar disorder can lead a full and productive life – with valuable contributions to their families, workplaces and communities.

Learn more on how to support someone with bipolar disorder.


Need to refresh your mental health first aid skills? This month’s focus is on the ALGEE key action, Listen and communicate non-judgementally.

We all make judgements; it is human nature, and a protective mechanism that is hardwired into us. While it is impossible not to make judgements, it is both possible and vital that you refrain from expressing those judgements when providing mental health first aid.

1. Reflect. Before offering mental health first aid, make sure you are in the right frame of mind to talk and listen without expressing judgements. Are you feeling calm, open, and ready to help?

2. Respect. Adopting an attitude of acceptance means respecting the person’s feelings, personal values, and experiences as valid, even if you disagree or they differ from your own. Taking time and making the effort to see things from the other person’s perspective can help you be more genuine and empathic.

3. Respond. Responding to the person using simple verbal skills, can help show that you are actively listening. Asking questions and using minimal prompts like “I see” and “ah” gives the person time to express their thoughts and feelings.

4. Refrain. While providing mental health first aid, you may find yourself feeling fearful, overwhelmed, sad or even irritated. Despite any emotional response you may have, it is important to continue listening respectfully and refrain from expressing any negative reactions.

This can sometimes be difficult and may be made more complex by your relationship with the person or your personal beliefs about their situation. Set these beliefs and reactions aside and focus on the person you are helping; their need to be heard, understood and helped. 

5. Revive. If you have found a mental health first aid conversation to be challenging make sure you take time to practice good self-care afterwards. You may not always have time for this at work, but try to find 5-10 minutes to go for a quick walk, meditate, be mindful or be kind.


Webinar – Role of the MHFAider

Join the Community and Workplace Engagement teams for the below pre-recorded webinar that explores the role of an MHFAider in the community and the workplace, and the role of
MHFA Officers.

Defining the Role of an MHFAider
and MHFA officer

Download our suite of resources for these roles. 

Mental Health First Aider
Guide to the Role 

MHFA Officer
Guide to the Role 

MHFA Officer
Position Description 

MHFA Officer

Join us on Wednesday 16th June @ 12:30pm AEST for our Zoom MHFA Coordinator Event. It’s a great opportunity to connect with other workplaces, to share insights and hear tips and tricks for implementing MHFA across a range of different industries and different size workplaces.

We hope to see you there.

MHFA Australia and the University of Melbourne are doing some research into people’s experiences of Blended Online MHFA courses, which have been available since May 2020. We’d like to know your thoughts on different parts of the course, any issues you encountered while doing the course, how useful you think the course is, and any feedback you have that might help us improve the course.

If you are a course participant or MHFA instructor who has completed or delivered the Blended Online Community, Workplace or Tertiary MHFA courses, and you are interested in participating in a 1 hour Zoom interview, you can find out more and register your interest here. We will be in touch with you shortly afterwards to arrange an interview time.

Thank you for your interest!

We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who expressed interest in joining the 2021 MHFAider Network Advisory Group. We had an overwhelming response and were pleased to invite online feedback from more than 30 MHFAiders.

A smaller live Zoom meeting was held on the 10th of March which provided valuable insight into upcoming events and opportunities. This feedback will inform the future development of the MHFAider Network, and we look forward to sharing a summary of the outcomes with you in our next update.

Do you have an MHFA story to share?

Throughout 2021, we will be sharing more stories about mental health first aid and the importance of good mental health. This will include stories from individuals who have completed our training and workplaces and community groups that are implementing Mental Health First Aid Courses within their organisations.

 If you are interested in sharing your MHFA story, send us an email and we’ll be in touch.

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