Objective: To assess the effectiveness of mental health first aid (MHFA) training in drought-affected rural and remote Australia, as part of a strategy to improve capacity among farming communities to provide early intervention for mental health problems.
Methods: Data were obtained from 99 participants recruited across 12 New South Wales towns, before and after delivery of MHFA seminars emphasising the role of front-line workers from agricultural-related services. Surveys assessed knowledge of, confidence in dealing with, and attitude towards people experiencing mental illness, along with the impact of training on response to mental health problems among target population of farmers and farming families.
Results: Rural support workers and community volunteers attended MHFA seminars because of perceived mental health needs in the workplace. A majority of responses reflect a concern with giving appropriate advice and support well outside narrow job definitions. Participants' ability to identify high prevalence disorders and endorse evidence-based interventions for both high and low prevalence disorders increased following MHFA training, as did their confidence in their ability to provide appropriate help.
Conclusions: MHFA training can form an effective part of a strategy to improve systems of care and pathways to early intervention in rural communities by using local networks to provide mental health support.