Mental health first aid for older South Australians

A specialised mental health first aid training course for families and carers living and working with older people has been launched in South Australia.


An Older Person Mental Health First Aid (OPMHFA) showcase course began in Adelaide on 19 June to train people to recognise and respond to mental health problems in older South Australians – before they reach crisis point.


The SA Mental Health Commission has teamed up with Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Australia to bring the course to South Australia. Two further showcase courses will be held in Port Lincoln and Mount Gambier in July.


“People may know about physical health problems, but may not understand mental health. Learning the signs and symptoms of common mental health problems and identifying ways to support older people experiencing depression, anxiety, confusion, dementia and psychosis is important knowledge for community groups,” Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said.


Mr Wade said mental health problems were under-diagnosed and under-treated amongst older South Australians with symptoms of ill-health often dismissed and simply attributed to “old age.”

“An estimated 10-15 per cent of older people experience depression and 10 per cent experience anxiety, with rates of depression climbing to a concerning 35 per cent for those living in residential aged-cared.

“Oakden and other cases in residential care cases highlighted the need for training and practical skills for anyone working with or caring for older Australians. This course will help address that need,” Mr Wade said.


Loneliness, changes in physical health, loss of independence, grief and loss, and brain changes can contribute to depression among older South Australians, who may also be hesitant to seek help early in case they appear ‘weak.’


SA Mental Health Commissioner Chris Burns, who officially launched the course said it was important to train the community to respond appropriately and as early as possible to older people developing mental health problems, rather than taking action only during a mental health crisis.


“During the commission’s wide-ranging community conversations as we developed the SA Mental Health Strategic Plan 2017-2022, we heard from many South Australians who talked about the importance of understanding mental health issues as experienced by older people,” he said.


The training covers mental health from early stages to crisis point, including signs and symptoms of common mental health problems in older people through to first aid in a crisis such as suicidal behaviours, panic attacks or unsafe behaviours.


Nataly Bovopoulos, the Chief Executive Officer of MHFA Australia, said the innovative Older Person MHFA Course taught practical skills and was relevant to anyone working with or caring for older Australians.


“We are so proud to partner with the SA Mental Health Commission to showcase it to key stakeholders in South Australia”


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See course details at


28 June 2018.