Applecross Rotary launched its Mental Health project in response to a presentation by a member whose brother died by suicide. Unfortunately, this story is all too common. In 2016, 2,866 Australians committed suicide – a far greater death toll than that caused by motor vehicle accidents. Most suicides are men (75%); suicide remains the leading cause of death in young Australian men. Approximately 87% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness at the time of death. Many of these deaths may have been prevented, if signs of struggle were identified earlier, and appropriate treatment received. We are losing seven Australians to suicide every day; we can do better as a community; and more needs to be done.
A Club Committee investigated a range of possible projects and have concluded that educating and thereby upskilling the community in mental health literacy would empower people to talk about it more openly and reduce stigma. Committee member Kate Zappa’s Mental Health First Aid proposal was chosen as the Club Project. Mental health first aid provides training that enables community members to identify potential mental health problems; take appropriate, evidence-based action to prevent escalation in a crisis; and provide people with useful information and support so that they can find the right professional help.
It was also realised that this project would benefit with assistance from other Rotary and Rotaract clubs and community groups. The Club will support a trainer in a Mental Health Training Course in May. This trainer will then be able to make mental health first aid training available to the wider community.