In a given year, one in five Australians will experience mental illness, with people in rural and remote locations particularly at risk. While physical first aid is widely accepted, many people are not knowledgeable or confident to offer assistance to someone impacted by mental illness. Since its inception in 2000, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) has evolved into a global movement, with over 4 million people trained globally to date, including over 900,000 Australians.
AWN, one of Australia’s fastest-growing agribusinesses, has recently been recognised by Mental Health First Aid Australia as a Gold level skilled workplace, making it the first Australian wool brokerage and livestock agency to receive recognition for its commitment to embedding the program into the organisations’ culture. AWN joins a number of other leading Australian and multi-national organisations that have invested in the mental health of their people through the MHFA Skilled Workplace Program.
Having recognised the critical importance of supporting staff and client mental health, AWN took the bold move of employing a dedicated, qualified team member to support staff in 2019.
AWN’s General Manager of People and Culture, Harry Petropoulos, said that the business’s commitment to supporting the mental health of staff and often of clients, was the driving force behind pursuing MHFA accreditation.
“Coming off the back of one of the worst droughts on record, terrible bush fires and followed by a global pandemic, I knew that more had to be done to support our people out in the field who feel the impact of these stressors on a daily basis,” Harry said.
“I was aware of Mental Health First Aid Australia and the in-roads that they were making in guiding leading businesses on mental health best practice. Knowing AWN’s commitment to support not just the physical but also the mental health of our staff and clients, I knew that this would be a program that resonated with our people across the business.”
Harry trained to become a MHFA instructor and in 2020 began facilitating online training sessions with people from across the AWN business via Zoom. To date, over 30 AWN staff, including senior management and Board members from across Australia have been qualified in MHFA, with more sessions planned over the coming months.
Not wanting to rest on its laurels, AWN is already working on the expansion of the program, with plans to take mental health training to the wider farming community across Australia.