Archive for August, 2009

Mental Health First Aid

August 26, 2009

I’ve worked for many years in an environment where a significant proportion of my clients have mental health issues. The environment? Prison chaplaincy.

Most prison inmates have, or have had, some kind of mental illness. And in my present work area, post-release support, the trend continues.

But one of the anomalies of this work is that there has been no training for recognising, understanding, or dealing well with mental illness. This week that changed.

Mental Health First Aid is a program of education similar to medical first aid courses. Instead of teaching people how to deal with physical accidents, it aims to teach people how to recognise mental health issues, how to respond in a crisis, and who to call for follow-up treatment.

This week I spent two days learning the basics. Perhaps I should say, trying to learn the basics. The course was packed with information and I came away, not only with the standard book produced by the training organisation, but with more pages of additional resources than I can get through in a week.

Perhaps the most profound thing for me was learning the extent to which such things as MRI scanning have contributed to understanding what goes on in the brain, thereby enriching research into mental illness treatments. The course was filled with references to dopamine, seratonin, SSRIs and such things. But underneath it all was the passion of people who’s goal is to see the fine balance of brain function restored to those who suffer in ways we outside can’t really understand.

The people running the course are www.mhfa.com.au
Check them out for courses running in your area.

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The Rear View Tourist

August 21, 2009

The traffic to work recently has been a bit slow. I think it’s because the school holidays are over and everyone’s back on the road. And with the slow down there’s more time to do stuff in the car. That means that there’s more to see in the rear view mirror.
For example, in the last week.

A woman doing her hair with a pencil.
She had what in a previous age would be an Afro, or what the Pacific Islanders call ‘big hair’. It was bunched up through a head band so it all pointed upwards and spilled out over the top. There’s probably a name for the style. And the woman had the pencil poking into her hair and spiking it up and out. It was a complicated thing to be doing with her head tilted over to one side so she could see herself in the mirror, and all the while slowly drifting along with the traffic.

Man in bright yellow gloves.
I mean bright. Fluorescent worksafe yellow. It was a cloudy day with a grey overcast. His car was dark grey. The inside trim was dark grey. And in the middle of all the greyness, two hi-vis yellow gloves on the wheel.

Woman flossing her teeth.
It was not a pretty sight. Nuff said.

Driver hitting little sister then bursting into tears.
This was as I was driving home from work. The driver on red Ps, probably 18 years old. The little girl junior high school age, 12 or 13. The younger one sitting sullenly. The driver getting more animated and ferocious, until she leaned over and started bashing into the younger one. I was about to get out of my car and do a bit of “You bash little kids you get reported” when she burst into tears. The traffic started moving again. Some things leave me with that feeling of not doing what was needed at the time.

Man putting on tie at traffic lights.
Luckily it was not a windsor knot, the lights don’t stay red long enough at that intersection.

Woman on phone.
We’ve all seen people on the phone while driving. Here in Australia it’s illegal. This woman was using a novel ‘hands free’ approach. She had the phone sitting on her shoulder and her head tilted at an extraoardinary angle to lock it into place. That must have been more dangerous than holding it in her hand.

Kid swinging a shovel.
Yep, you read that right. He was in a booster seat in the back and waving a little kid-sized garden shovel around. It was easily long enough to hit the driver in the back of the head. I saw no blood, so I imagine they both got to where they were going.