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InfraBuild and the Mental Health First Aid Program

10 August 2022

Meet the blokes who set out four years ago to break the stigma around mental health.

“Well, there was a gap – a big one” said Mike Petrov, Training and Assurance Partner in our Recycling team.

“Plenty of talk within the broader safety community, but not a whole lot of help or work being done – particularly around suicide and the ripple effect it has on those who have lost loved ones”.

Tasked with the challenge to tackle this problem head on for InfraBuild’s Recycling team, Mike Petrov and Rod Langford, Safety and Environment Manager, set out in 2018 to coordinate an initiative that would build our team’s capabilities in responding to mental health issues in the workplace, which is where they were first introduced to Mental Health First Aid® Australia.

Each year, 1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental illness. With approximately 450 people within InfraBuild’s Recycling team, the guys recognised there could not only be members within their own team privately struggling with mental health issues, but equally likely, there would be colleagues who did not feel knowledgeable or confident enough to offer assistance.

InfraBuild is fortunate to receive professional support and advice from Geoff Bowser, Clinical Psychologist and Accredited Mental Health First Aid (MHFATM) Instructor, who has now developed a deep understanding of our business.

“Men, particularly older men, find it hard to be vulnerable, ask for help or even start a conversation around mental health… particularly in the workplace,” said Geoff. “With steel being a predominately male-dominated industry, and the value of family being very evident within the Recycling team, there was certainly space for gains to be made here.”

“MHFA education training applies an early intervention strategy approach for the training, catching people who are in the early stages of developing chronic problems, as well as those in crisis.”

Geoff said: “It was never a tick the box approach for InfraBuild. The intent was to bring real learnings into the business and those who took part in training genuinely wanted to help.”

InfraBuild has 38 people across NSW, VIC, QLD and SA who are trained Mental Health First Aiders. As more issues and topics became prevalent, further programs have been rolled out, including: stress in the workplace, resilience and even an anxiety toolbox during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MHFA education training program goes beyond placing a poster on the lunchroom noticeboard. The program gives our people the skills and confidence to start the conversation.

“You’re like a traffic cop for mental health, you aren’t expected to be a psychologist or diagnose mental illnesses, but you do point people in the right direction so they can seek help when needed most,” said Rod Langford.

“And these skills not only support the workplace. You also find people reaching out in your personal life and community for help,” said Mike, “Particularly given what the world has experienced over the past few years”.

Chris Morgan, General Manager of InfraBuild’s Australian recycling operations, championed the development of the Mental Health First Aid program within the Recycling team, which is now set to go InfraBuild-wide.

“The aim is to have a further 150 people across the whole of InfraBuild, trained as Mental Health First Aiders by the end of 2022. That way – whether you work at a big site, or even one of our smaller branches – you know there is someone close-by, perhaps even around the corner, ready and willing to listen,” said Chris.

Mental Health First Aid Australia

Mental Health First Aid® was first developed in Australia over 21 years ago. Since that time its rigorous, evidence-based education programs have been licensed to 25 countries around the world with over 4 million people trained globally, including 1 million Australians.

Mental Health First Aid® Australia offer a range of core and specialised training courses that teach participants about the different types of mental illness and equip individuals with the skills to assess and respond to someone experiencing a mental health problem or crisis situation.

Anyone can have a conversation that saves a life.

Everyone should know how.

More information about Mental Health First Aid is available at www.mhfa.com.au

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