Scouts NSW building resilience and supporting mental health

Published Tue 31 Oct 2023

As Mental Health Month draws to a close, Scouts NSW is preparing for another round of Youth Mental Health First Aid courses.

The MHFA courses teach our volunteers how to assist adolescents who are developing a mental health problem, experiencing worsening of a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis.

Scouts NSW State Commissioner – Mental Health Support Wendy White said supporting the mental health of youth members was a key focus all year.

“Our MHFA training is just as important as the medical first aid training already offered as part of the Scout Program. First aid is for visible injuries, MHFA is for invisible concerns and together, it creates a full, holistic approach,” she said.

“We have seven active trainers in the MHFA team. We pretty much cover the state and will go anywhere. The team are all accredited Licensed Instructors with Mental Health First Aid Australia.”

Where it began

Mental Health First Aid training started in the South Coast and Tablelands Region in 2017 with Anthony Pritchard and Paul Hamer, after a grant from the IMB Foundation was secured to train two instructors. 

When Wendy was at AJ2019 in Adelaide, she realised what welfare people go through at events and saw the work the pair were doing, but they needed a bigger team.

In June 2020, former Chief Commissioner Neville Tomkins asked Phil Crutchley, in his capacity as Deputy Chief Commissioner – Operations, to set up the MHFA Steering Committee and manage the grants for MHFA instructors and the training program.

Phil, now Assistant Chief Commissioner – People, said the MHFA training program was about educating people in a similar way to how medical first aid is taught.

“Mental Health First Aiders are advocates and supporters of people with mental health concerns,” he said.

“A Mental Health First Aider is trained to identify symptoms and work with the individual, providing information and support.

"We are not counsellors and we are definitely not providers of treatment.”

Grace Mitchell became a member of the Steering Committee through her time as a State Rover Council (SRC) member and became the committee chair in July 2021 to take the project forward.

“As part of my time in the SRC, I launched PAW (Psychological Awareness and Welfare) Patrol with a team of Rovers from across the state and with my co-trainer Harry Lantry trained 100 Rovers in MHFA,” she said.

“Then COVID struck and PAW Patrol was not needed, but I was approached by Neville Tomkins with the idea of applying for a grant that would train up four further Rovers to become MHFA instructors. When we were successful, I was asked to be the under-30s rep due to my experiences in Rovers and in the MHFA area.”

Grace said the purpose of the committee was to recruit and train 12 Leaders in the state to become MHFA trainers, with the goal to eventually train all Leaders in NSW in MHFA.

“This would empower our members to feel confident in helping those around them who may be facing a mental health crisis,” she said.

“As the under-30s rep, I helped with the recruitment process, as well as setting up structures for how courses would take place. As chair, I started to build how we would become sustainable in the future.”

Grace is proud of the achievements of the committee, which trained more than 500 people in MHFA despite COVID, as well as spreading awareness of mental health and how to reduce the stigmatisation of mental health through the courses.

Looking ahead
The committee has now become the Mental Health Team with seven active members.

“We train our members in MHFA on behalf of Mental Health First Aid Australia,” Wendy said.

“At this stage we would have at least 500 accredited Mental Health First Aiders. Training courses don’t come cheap, so we try to find grant money to help cover the cost.”

The intent is to have Mental Health First Aiders working in every Region across the state.

To find out more about Mental Health First Aid, email

Anyone experiencing a crisis can call the below helplines for support and advice:
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 | Kid’s Helpline: 1800 55 1800 | Lifeline: 13 11 14
To be connected with specialist mental health services, call the NSW Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511


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