Tuesday 21 November 2017

Big take-up on mental health course

By Maria Pepper

Newly-trained CommunityMinders pictured after a Mental Health First Aid course in Clayton Whites Hotel.
Newly-trained CommunityMinders pictured after a Mental Health First Aid course in Clayton Whites Hotel.

There was a huge public response to a request by Wexford CommunityMinds for people to train in Mental Health First Aid with all available places quickly taken for two courses funded by the HSE.

The HSE has provided €12,000 to Mental Health First Aid Ireland to deliver training to 40 recruits under the auspices of CommunityMinds, a new organisation established in Wexford to train first responders in recognising and helping people with mental health problems.

The first of the HSE-funded courses was held last week with 20 men and woman aged from 20 to 67 taking part. A further 20 will be trained in May by which time there will be 60 CommunityMinders in Wexford.

The training covers depression, anxiety, psychosis and substance misuse and deals with mental health crisis situations including suicidal thoughts and behaviour, self-harm, panic attacks, traumatic events, severe psychotic states, severe effects of alcohol or other drug use and aggressive behaviours.

CommunityMinds was founded last year with the aim of building a network of individuals within communities who have the training and knowledge to act as first responders and advocates for mental health and well-being.

The training is in Mental Health First Aid which is used to help someone developing a mental health problem or who is in a mental health crisis. Assistance is given until appropriate professional support is received or until the crisis resolves.The Mental Health First Aid programme is available in 23 countries worldwide.

Leonard Kelly, an engineer and trained psychotherapist and one of the co-founders of CommunityMinds along with Vincent Byrne and Alan and Bernadette Doolan thanked the HSE for the funding and Mental Health First Aid Ireland for agreeing to run the courses.

He said the next course is over-subscribed but it is hoped to provide some element of training to those on the waiting list. 'We want to include everyone who has shown an interest.'

'There is a lot of goodwill out there. People want to do the right thing but they don't have the knowledge or the expertise. CommunityMinders seeks to give them the training and the confidence to help.'

'Many of us are not well informed about how to recognise mental health problems, how to respond to the person and what supports are available which can result in a delay in someone seeking help or not seeking help at all. There is a great strength in our communities and a large network of CommunityMinders can only make them stronger,'he said.

One of the trainees contacted Leonard a few hours after the course finished and said: 'Thank you so much for such an amazing opportunity over the last few days. There will be great friendships from this and even greater support for the community. I've already had to help someone this evening and I felt very confident.'

Another said: 'We can now feel safer knowing that a small group of mental health first responders are available to give aid to those who may be in crisis. This is a wonderful, burgeoning initiative that was a joy to take part in, an initiative that should be supported and cherished.'

Donal Scanlan, Project Manager with Mental Health First Aid Ireland described it as an exciting initiative and said it is a great opportunity to bring mental health first aid skills to a community setting, helping people to become a more caring and supportive community.For more information go to

Wexford People

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