Hunter Valley Police District officers undergo Mental Health First Aid, thanks to Where there's a Will

THE Where there’s a Will (WTAW) Foundation recently attracted the attention of the Hunter Valley Police District. 

But, don’t be alarmed, the not-for-profit charity isn’t in trouble with the boys and girls in blue.

Twelve officers underwent Mental Health First Aid last Friday and Saturday, with the training funded by money raised during the Belltrees v Rouchel Charity Cricket match earlier this year.

The sessions complement the Mental Health Intervention component of their education to become policemen and women, which addresses how to recognise and deal with a mental health issue when they are called out to a job.

Chief Inspector Guy Guiana, who has already completed the training provided by Where there’s a Will, said if police were aware of early signs of mental ill health, it may trigger a different way to respond to the situations they encounter. 

“If we’ve dealt with an adolescent on multiple occasions, we may be able to say to families that the issue goes beyond being a bad person, that it’s about someone needing assistance with their mental health,” he explained.

“You can never have too much training in the area of mental health, especially when you’re a first responder. 

“We have a deep appreciation for the community providing us with the opportunity to complete this training.”

Chief Inspector Guiana also said they were already feeling the impact of working in a region that has a greater knowledge about mental illness. 

“With the broader community having a better general understanding of mental health issues, people are starting to identify that things aren’t always a police matter,” said.

“With the level of knowledge that now exists, some of those early interventions are being redirected to health rather than police, people aren’t calling the police first time every time.

“The approach of the general public as well as the police is changing towards mental health.”

WTAW co-founder Pauline Carrigan said the organisation was now at the point where it estimates that one in 40 adults in the Upper Hunter now know how to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental illness, and how to help those in need, thanks to Where there’s a Will.

“If there’s anywhere else in the world with this level of knowledge, we’d really like to know about it,” she said.

“We seriously don’t think there’s another community working as hard as this one to tackle the very real problem of mental illness.

“It’s a problem that the World Health Organisation forecasts will be the greatest burden to mankind by 2030, which is not that far away.

“So, you can only imagine our delight that we now have our local police officers getting in on the act.”