Johnathan Link is an accredited Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Instructor. Johnathan works for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) in QLD. As you can see from the images in this post, Johnathan aims to reach a variety of groups in his training including high risk youth, welfare system clients, community members and individuals, and people working in remote areas.
Read on for more on his journey with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander MHFA Program.
- Pictured above. Left – Younger AMHFA course participants from a Wellbeing Centre in Coen, far northern QLD. Right – Remote area indigenous staff from Centrelink Cairns attending an AMHFA course (Johnathan pictured in green – front row on left).
MHFA: What made you decide to become a Mental Health First Aid Instructor?
Johnathan: After working for over five years in the Cape York region as a Community Liaison and Development Officer (Mental Health) and counsellor, there were no other indigenous staff members in the Royal Flying Doctor’s Service (RFDS) who were accredited to instruct the Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid (AMHFA) course. So I approached management for their support to become an instructor. I won a scholarship and achieved my accreditation at a 5-day AMHFA Instructor Training Course held in Darwin, in 2008. It seemed relevant to have another skill set under my belt to assist in early intervention and prevention processes and to support others during a crisis or dilemma, and to teach others these skills through conducting the 14-hour AMHFA course.
What previous experience in mental health did you bring with you before becoming an Instructor?
In the past I have provided personal development packages as a consultant in areas such as counselling, community liaison and development, and mental health. For five years I delivered social/mental health education and mental health promotion activities, on a regular basis, with an emphasis on a strengths based approach for empowerment and cultural safety for identity to Aboriginal communities in Cape York.
What was it like training to become an Instructor?
I enjoyed the Instructor Training Course as I developed new skills and learning techniques. I also enjoyed the opportunity to hear from others about their journey to becoming an Instructor. After being a senior (physical) first aider for many years, I realised that people endure stressful moments in their life and having the Instructor accreditation enables support to people in a critical phase of uncertainty. I have encouraged many of the indigenous staff working in their community to become AMHFA Instructors as it has been a good journey for me.
What groups in the community attend your courses?
The majority of participants are indigenous. At some workshops there have been people who have married into Aboriginal families and who want to learn more, particularly about some of the cultural aspects such as Lore, Customs and Belief systems (not excluding peoples from CALD backgrounds that live and work in our remote indigenous communities). Couples tend to want to learn more so they can help other family members and the community.
How do you promote your courses?
There are several mechanisms that I utilise to promote my AMHFA courses, such as posters, newsletters articles, internal emails, networking and radio interviews with locals about what I am offering to community.
What has been the best thing about becoming a Mental Health First Aid Instructor?
Rolling out the most workshops in Cape York and partnering with key indigenous Instructors and organisations. Meeting regularly at the Annual MHFA Instructors Conference and yarning about what works well as a health professional. The accreditation has also enables me to travel to other remote locations in Australia. I am looking forward to the day I receive Master Instructor status (after I conduct my 30th AMHFA course).
What do you hope the MHFA Program achieves in the future?
A true accreditation process whereby it shouldn’t matter how many you do in one year, as long as you are passionate about it. This program could be rolled out in schools, learning institutions and sporting groups.
Do you have a website?
No, but you could send me an email at: email@example.com
Pictured below. Left – Kowanyama Rangers from Western Cape York reading their AMHFA Manuals during a course. Right – Riversleigh station manager and his wife (both in blue) attending an AMHFA course at Lawn Hill.