scrabble tiles spelling out 'mental health'

Putting mental health first

Anita Jaensch 24 January 2020

If a family member, friend or colleague was struggling with their mental health, would you know what to do?

A new initiative by RSL Queensland has seen employees learn how to recognise and support people suffering mental health issues.

“Mental health has always been one of our highest priorities,” says RSL Queensland CEO Melanie Wilson. “But now we are expanding our focus to how we can support and improve the mental health of our staff, as well as the Defence family.”

Although not mandatory, approximately 85 per cent of RSL Queensland staff took the opportunity to participate in Mental Health First Aid training sessions at the end of 2019. This included not only Veteran Service team members – who regularly liaise with clients who may be experiencing mental health problems – but also staff from all areas of the organisation. 

Melanie says Mental Health First Aid training gives people a greater understanding of mental health issues, and equips them with basic strategies for helping their friends or colleagues.

“The training helps people recognise when a friend or colleague might be experiencing a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety, and gives them the confidence to reach out to that person with compassion and understanding,” she says. “It also contributes greatly to a supportive work culture where mental illness isn’t stigmatised.”

With one in five Australians experiencing mental illness in any year i, Mental Health First Aid training is increasingly taking its place alongside traditional first aid training in workplaces. Just as there are qualified First Aid Officers on staff, RSL Queensland will eventually have a number of dedicated Mental Health First Aid Officers.

“Five years ago, we couldn’t have done this. But it’s increasingly understood that there are significant advantages in ensuring that workplaces are safe, both physically and psychologically.

“And there’s no doubt that this has real benefits to the organisation, as well as individuals and society as a whole. Our staff are our biggest asset – taking care of their mental health helps us attract and retain talented professionals, increases productivity and helps reduce absenteeism.”

Four reasons to consider undertaking Mental Health First Aid training:

  • Better understand how mental illness affects people’s lives
  • Reduce stigma associated with mental illness
  • Feel more confident to reach out to others
  • Recognise early signs of mental ill-health. 


i. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2007. National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.


  • Health & wellbeing