A MENTAL health ‘first aid’ course that helps people to identify, understand and support someone with poor mental or emotional health is now available in the South West.

The course aims to make mental health support as important as first aid in the workplace and beyond, giving individuals the confidence to help someone who is experiencing problems.

The announcement coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week, May 12 – 18, which this year is focusing on anxiety, one of the leading causes of mental ill-health in the world.

Statistics show that one in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem over the course of a year.

Sources of anxiety most prevalent include mounting pressure on employees in the workplace to perform for less reward, increased exam stress for young people and growing numbers of breakdowns in family relationships.

Celebrity culture has created additional worries surrounding body image, resulting in an escalation of GP visits by young people for an unprecedented range of emotional problems.

The true cost to society has only recently been recognised, and although the Government is determined to close the gap in treatment of physical and mental health conditions and extra investment has been promised, it takes time for funding and policy changes to filter through.

However, individuals and organisations can take action to support friends and colleagues now by attending a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course.

The accredited course is similar to a standard first aid course as it teaches people to recognise crucial warning signs, in this case of emotional, rather than physical, distress.

It was first developed in Australia in 2000 and is now recognised in 21 countries.

Those who complete a course receive a valuable learning experience and gain new skills that are useful in all aspects of life.

Employers providing this type of mental health first aid training can empower their employees to become mentors for mental health first aid, helping to ensure that every member of their workforce enjoys mental well-being.

By taking part in this initiative, everyone can help close the gap between physical and mental health and start to promote positive mental health and wellbeing across the county.

Details of courses in Devon can be found at www.mhfasouthwest.co.uk and further information is available on the main MHFA website www.mhfaengland.org.