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In August 2020, Harriet joined Breakthrough, Australia’s only dedicated mental health research foundation, focused on raising funds to invest in life-changing mental health research.

“I loved working [there], I learned so much about mental health, [and] the need for research and awareness,” Harriet said.

She joined at a time when millions of Australians were in a state of lockdown, experiencing some of the strictest COVID-19 restrictions globally. At that time, mental health was discussed a lot, both at work and in the community more broadly.

“I was so excited to start there at that time, because I’d been through my own struggles with mental health too.”

Harriet had been working at Breakthrough for just four months when she was offered the opportunity to complete Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training.

“It was really great to start, and to do the training at that time, because it really helped me to understand more about mental health, not just for my job but also for myself,” Harriet said.

Harriet credits MHFA and becoming an accredited Mental Health First Aider (MHFAider) for opening her eyes to the reality of lived mental health experience.

The training was really beneficial to me because it helped me to better understand mental health issues. It has also helped me to see people experiencing mental health issues in a different light, eliminating any judgement I may have felt before.”

Six months after undergoing her training, Harriet recalls one night where her skills in mental health first aid allowed her to react, respond and offer support to a person in need.

“I was in an Uber, and we were driving past this man who was standing in front of traffic on the road.

“I said to the Uber driver ‘Hey, oh my God, what’s he doing? He doesn’t look alright.’

“The driver said to me ‘Yeah, he’s been there for like an hour’, which made me so sad… [that] no one had helped this poor guy who was clearly having a crisis.”

Determined to offer support and to try and help, Harriet stopped the car and made the choice to intervene.

“I approached him, I didn’t go onto the road, but I stood a distance away from him, and I said ‘Hey, come off the road, it’s not safe. Let’s come and have a chat.’”

Harriet was able to talk the man off the road and encourage him to sit with her on the curb. “We sat side by side, and he just burst into tears. And he said ‘I don’t know what to do. I just feel so horrible.’”

After staying and listening, a group of passing men scared the man and he ran back to the road. Harriet decided to call emergency services and wait for them to arrive.

“It was an interesting and impactful situation for me, where I was able to put those amazing skills into practice”

Harriet acknowledges that having mental health first aid skills and knowing what to do, was a key factor in why she stopped and tried to provide support.

“I couldn’t walk past him, because I knew the skills and what to do and I think I did help this man.”

Harriet says MHFA training provided her with a unique perspective and a better understanding of people.

“It’s not anyone’s fault if they have a mental illness, it’s just what some people are going through.”

“It was great to get a better understanding… [of] the way that people and people’s minds work… and learn there are ways to help people who are experiencing difficulties.”

For Harriet, becoming an MHFAider allowed her to gain a deeper understanding of the spectrum of mental health – what good mental health looks like and what it looks like when you are experiencing an emerging problem.

An unexpected benefit of the training was also understanding how to support her own mental health in everyday life.

“For me, personally I’m making sure I’m exercising all the time and getting outside and seeing friends and being social.”

Nearly 3 years on from her first MHFA training course, Harriet acknowledges the enormous impact the training has had on her.

“The training will be something I carry with me for life.”

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Have a Story to share?

If you’re a Mental Health First Aider with a story to share, we’d love to hear from you.

Simply fill out the form below to share your details and our team will get in touch with you to discuss next steps.

Read Other Stories

Explore our other stories below or go back to the MHFA Stories page.

Cecilia’s story

Cecilia’s story

Cecilia’s mental health story started when she was young, although like many others she didn’t realise it at the time. The turning point in Cecilia’s story came when she was in the middle of a Mental Health First Aid course.

Kellie’s Story

Kellie’s Story

When Kellie’s housemate came home from work, their behaviour seemed off. As a trained Mental Health First Aider, Kellie recognised something wasn’t right.

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Leesa’s Story

Leesa’s Story

Leesa, a member of the Mental Health First Aider Network since 2021, combines her hospitality experience with a passion for mental health advocacy, hosting a podcast to share and explore mental health stories.

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Jill’s Story

Jill’s Story

Jill, a nurse and seasoned Licensed MHFA Instructor has witnessed first-hand the profound impact that mental health first aid skills can have on healthcare and communities.

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Jackie’s Story

Jackie’s Story

Jackie, an active member of the Mental Health First Aider Network with a personal history of anxiety and family mental illness, advocates for mental health awareness, inspired by her own experiences and challenges since childhood.

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