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Emmanuel raising awareness of mental health



Fr Paul Pitzen from the Emmanuel Centre presents MHFA certificates to Albert, an Emmanuel Centre volunteer, and Jenny, who is profoundly deaf. Monsignor Michael Keating presents a MHFA certificate to Grace, one of his parishioners at St Mary’s Cathedral. PHOTO: Supplied

Mental Health issues are a growing concern for all, with one in four people from young children to the elderly experiencing mental illness at some stage in their lives, and often with re-occurring issues, according to Emmanuel Centre Co-ordinator Barbara Harris.

Problems with mental health, said Mrs Harris, can start at any age, and not a lot is known about what to do.

“The government has long waiting lists and GPs are overworked with no time to give the follow up help needed to get a person through a difficult time,” Mrs Harris said.

“If a person has private health insurance they may still have to wait and end up paying a fortune anyway.”

Furthermore, said Mrs Harris, taking care of one’s mental health is very rarely talked about; however, through the work of the Emmanuel Centre, the Archdiocese of Perth is helping and supporting people on a daily basis.

The self-help disability support centre, located in East Perth, is working towards having at least two people in every parish trained in Mental Health First Aid.

Similar to other First Aid courses, the Mental Health First Aid course does not turn out psychiatrists or psychiatric nurses.

“However, it does train people to recognise the signs of possible mental health issues and to be prepared and able to assist when necessary,” Mrs Harris said.

St Pius X Manning parish priest, Father Blasco Fonseca, spoke to the eRecord about his experience in providing support to a parishioner experiencing mental health issues.

“In the first month of my time at the parish, a parishioner came into the foyer before Mass, visibly quite distressed,” Fr Blasco said.

“At the conclusion of Mass, I took some time to speak with them and provided some suggestions on where they could find the help they needed. I also asked two parishioners to follow up with the person and, if possible, to visit them at home,” he said.

“I believe that having volunteers in parishes with basic training in Mental Health First Aid could be very helpful.”

The next Mental Health First Aid Course will be held on Saturday August 1 and Saturday, 8 August, and scholarships are available. The closing date for applications is 20 July.

For more information, or to apply, contact Barbara Harris on 08 9328 8113 or email