October 13 - 19, 2019: Issue 424


This Mental Health Month Let's Talk About The Elephant In The Room

Wesley the elephant with some of our ABSLSC lifesavers - photo supplied by The Ideas Suite.

SLSNSW joined forces with Wesley Mission Hospitals for the promotion of Mental Health Month (October) at Avalon Beach SLSC on World Mental Health Day this week (October 10th). Wesley Mission Hospitals brought along Wesley the Elephant to encourage everyone to talk about the 'elephant in the room' and to raise awareness of, and remove the stigma behind mental health. This is the third consecutive year Wesley Hospital has brought Wesley the Elephant – and gifting miniature Wesley ‘stress elephants’ – to the public.

Wesley Mission CEO the Rev Dr Keith V Garner AM spoke about the mental health challenges emergency service workers face.

“By joining with Surf Life Saving NSW, we’re encouraging the public to talk more openly about the ‘elephant in the room’ and increase public awareness and appreciation of the unique and challenging role fulfilled by emergency service personnel and staff.” Dr. Garner said

“Around one-fifth of emergency service workers report high-levels of psychological stress and do not always recognise the signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety or PTSD in themselves. It can be prolonged over many years, and often people don’t realise that it’s affecting their everyday lives until it impacts their relationships, work and daily activities."

Steven Pearce, CEO of Surf Life Saving NSW, said he was delighted that SLSNSW was joining forces with Wesley Hospital this Mental Health Month to encourage SLSNSW members to join the conversation and share their mental health journeys. 

“Avalon Surf Life Saving Club has received awards for its youth programs and engagement with young people, so Wesley Hospital’s event, which fittingly is taking place on World Mental Health Day, is important in supporting open and honest discussions about mental health among our younger members.” Mr. Pearce said

The health and wellbeing of surf lifesavers across NSW was highlighted as a key priority in the Surf Life Saving NSW Strategic Plan 2018-21

"Over the past year, we have worked closely with psychologists and experts in critical incident management and post-traumatic stress to understand how we can best support our members following a critical incident," said SLSNSW CEO Steven Pearce.

"We’re proud to deliver a new member welfare process to our members this season, which is firmly rooted in best practice. This is a key outcome and commitment of our Strategic Plan. The health and welfare of our members is hugely important to us. Myself, the SLSNSW President, George Shales and the entire SLSNSW Board are committed to doing what we can to look after our members that attend these critical incidents."

The new procedures will be endorsed by the SLSNSW Board in the coming weeks, and promoted to members alongside the updated Lifesaving Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

A new Member Welfare Guide outlines the support that members can expect if they are involved in a critical incident, and also creates awareness around the reactions that members may experience, and some coping strategies that they may find useful.

This is just the first of a number of resources which will made available to members this season, with additional personnel, training and resources in the pipeline to help embed this process and to support a strong culture of member safety and wellbeing.

Branch, Surf Life Saving Sydney Northern Beaches (SLSSNB), continues to offer their Mental Health program as well.

While a number of organisations have just started to realise the importance of Mental Health First Aid Training, Surf Life Saving Sydney Northern Beaches kicked off a TIPS (Trauma Incident Peer Support) program in 1994 looking after the welfare of its members after critical incidents.

Patricia (‘Trish’) Newton OAM is the founding chair and co-ordinator of the Traumatic Incident Peer Support (TIPS) team. The program plays a critical role in ensuring the welfare and mental wellbeing of members in the Sydney Northern Beaches Branch who have been involved in a critical incident.

Having mentored and motivated surf lifesavers involved in traumatic incidences for more than 25 years, Trish knows first-hand the impact saving lives can sometimes have on the mental health of emergency service workers, including lifesavers. She welcomes Wesley Hospital’s ‘elephant in the room’ initiative, which she says is another important way of facilitating open discussions around mental health for people at the beach.

“Our TIPS team has been providing surf lifesaving members and their families with crucial support for more than 25 years. Our motto is ‘be there, stay there.’ We know the importance of being on-call, down at the beach, when a critical incident occurs,” said Trish Newton.

“Providing a mental health support service to all involved is crucial in these events, and we’re excited to joining with Wesley Hospital, as they bring their giant elephant to the beach to promote awareness around just that.”

Trish Newton, a former nurse and the first ever female president of Dee Why SLSC, has been internationally recognised for her work in this field and still oversees SLSSNB's Mental Health program.

The SLSSNB Branch will be conducting another of their Mental Health First Aid training courses in November. Each course will run over two Sundays ( 6 hours each day ) at our Warriewood office. Sunday 10th and Sunday 17th November 2019 - LIMITED places available.

Course participants learn about the signs and symptoms of the common and disabling mental health problems, how to provide initial help, where and how to get professional help, what sort of help has been shown by research to be effective, and how to provide first aid in a crisis situation.

A special discounted fee for SNB Club members is $120 per person which includes refreshments and a light lunch each day. Non-members are also welcome at $200 per person. For more information on the course content click here. For bookings please call 9913 8066 or email jen@surflifesaving.net.au. Limit of 15 per course.

If you or anyone you know needs help please contact:

  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
  • MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
  • Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
  • Headspace on 1800 650 890
  • ReachOut at au.reachout.com
Avalon Beach SLSC Members with SLS NSW CEO Steven Pearce, Wesley Mission CEO the Rev Dr Keith V Garner AM and SLS SNB CEO, Steve McInnes. Photo supplied by The Ideas Suite.