Mindfulness & Self-Care Archives - Afea Care Services

Our 12-day challenge for Mental Health Month

Looking after our mental health at Afea   

With everything that’s been going on with lockdowns and isolation, many of us have found it challenging to prioritise our mental health.

Maybe you’re busier, you have more caring responsibilities than normal and you don’t have time to prioritise yourself? Or perhaps the social isolation and loneliness have made you feel unmotivated to try anything new?

It’s important that we work on our mental health as often as we can. Good mental health is how we cope with these life stressors and take part in our community.

October is Mental Health Month, and the theme is ‘Look after your mental health, Australia’.

Our People and Culture Manager Joseph Assad explains how Afea has been prioritising mental health throughout this lockdown.

He also shares our 12-day challenge that everyone can try to help improve mental health.

We all need connection

At Afea, looking after our mental health is a big part of our culture. We’re very passionate about supporting our team to have good mental health and we try to provide as many tools as possible to help them.

We’ve stepped it up a notch over the past few months of lockdown. We’ve introduced lots of new programs to help support our Afea staff who are working from home.

We’ve had online yoga and Zumba training sessions, a STEPtember challenge and even a virtual Taronga Zoo tour.

However, our most popular idea was something a little different – we gave everyone a $20 Uber Eats voucher.

It wasn’t so much about giving everyone a day off cooking (although that was certainly appreciated!). It was more about our teams relaxing and sharing a lunch together.

Our team in lockdown is stuck at home and isolated from each other. They are socially distant in all senses of the word.

By giving a simple voucher it allowed everyone the opportunity to forget about work. They could sit back, relax and interact in the way they ordinarily would in the office.

Connecting with our friends and colleagues is an integral way of working on our mental health.

We’re learning about resilience

Resilience is being able to cope with tough times and it’s something we’ve all needed a bit more of over the past 18 months.

We wanted to make sure our staff had the resilience skills they needed to cope with the current situation and any other future challenges that come their way.

There are lots of ways to strengthen resilience, so we set up team training sessions that focused on how we were facing some challenges that we were experiencing.

It gave us all an opportunity to have an open discussion with the people they work closely with.

R U OK day with the Afea Tribe

Our 12-day challenge for mental health

Another initiative that proved to be a great success was our daily challenges. These were challenges posed by our Learning and Development Specialist to help us try different things.

We shared how we were going in our company intranet portal – Employment Hero. It was a wonderful chance for us to understand a bit more of each other’s lives and share how we’re really doing.

Here is the 12-day mental health challenge if you’d like to give it a try.

Monday Day 1: Meditation challenge

Whether it’s one minute or 60 minutes, it doesn’t matter how long you meditate for. Starting the habit is the important bit.

You could try an app like Smiling Mind to give you some pointers.

Tuesday Day 2: Digital detox

This can be tough, but today’s challenge is to reduce your reliance on your phone or other devices. Try to stay off your phone all day or just turn it off for an hour before bed.

Wednesday Day 3: Swap a Netflix binge for a book binge

You might just want to substitute one episode for a bit of reading or swap your entire night of TV for a good book.

Thursday Day 4: Exercise… your mind

Challenge your mind with a mind puzzle. Whether it’s a crossword, Sudoku or even Tetris, today is about giving your brain some exercise.

Friday Day 5: Push up challenge

The push-up challenge shouldn’t be about beating other people. It’s all about beating your best. Get an extra push up in each time you try.

Saturday and Sunday Day 6 & 7: Cookie challenge

No matter whether they’re healthy or unhealthy, the challenge is to create your best batch of cookies. Cook with your kids, your partner, roommates, or just enjoy some time cooking solo.

Monday Day 8: Share your inspiration

Share with your colleagues where you turn to when you need some inspiration. It could be an influential leader, an entrepreneur, sportsperson, or some other leader in your life. There is no right or wrong.

Tuesday Day 9: Sleep

Go to bed one hour earlier tonight. You may not fall asleep right away, but it will give you a chance to wind down and relax.

Wednesday Day 10: Let’s get walking

The challenge is to take a 10-15 break and go for a walk around your block, up and down your street or in the park. Whatever works for you.

Thursday Day 11: Share what keeps you motivated

In lockdown, we often have to be creative to keep our routine going. Share your tips on how you stay motivated with your colleagues.

Friday Day 12: Share your WFH life

Share a photo or create a meme that represents Work from Home or lockdown life for you.

Working on our mental health is ongoing

What we realised from our team lunch date, resilience training and 12 Day Challenge is that we need to work on our mental health every day.

We all need to make the effort to stay connected with each other. We need to give ourselves the time and space to think about what makes us feel happy, healthy and inspired.

If you’re finding it hard to work on your mental health, it might help to talk to a professional. Chat to your GP or contact one of these organisations for some support:

Find out how we help our clients with our mental health.

“How Afea helped me discover my true potential” – Archna Sharma

If you’ve called Afea recently, you may have spoken to our concierge, Archna. She came to us in an unusual way. Before Archna started working with us… she was one of our clients! Here Archna explains how Afea helped her grow into a confident and balanced person.

How I found Afea

I didn’t think I needed support as I’d always done everything on my own. I’d been to uni, I’d lived on my own, I thought I was fine.

But looking back, I wasn’t in a great place. I was suffering from pretty severe anxiety and depression. It got to where I couldn’t even go to the local grocery store because I was too scared. My anxiety had become debilitating.

My friend introduced me to Afea two years ago. She reminded me it’s often the people who can’t ask for help who need it the most.

It was so refreshing to let down my guard and take away all the biases I had around asking for help.

How Afea helped me

I started with a few support services to help me get out and about. Just having someone to hold your hand can help show you that the world isn’t such a scary place. The Afea carers know they can’t force someone to change. Their secret is shining the guiding light so you can see things more clearly.

Over time, my entire perspective changed. I realised that I’d built things up to be so big in my mind that I couldn’t find a way out of my thoughts.

The combination of seeing a psychologist, taking medication for a short amount of time and my Afea carers helped me realise I can do anything I want to do. By having someone right there at side, they showed me I could do it.

Archna with some Afea Carers, clients and leaders at the Parramatta Hub Opening

How things have changed

My path has gone in a completely different direction over the past two years. I went from being too scared to leave the house to enrolling in TAFE courses because I want to learn more. I recently completed a health administration course, and I just enrolled in a certificate in pathology collection.

I’ve even had a career change. I worked for years in the fitness industry, but I had lost interest in it. I recently started a new job…. at Afea! That’s right, I’ve gone from receiving Afea services to working at Afea.

I’m a concierge, which means I answer phones and make sure clients and carers receive the help they need. Working at Afea has completely broadened my horizons and opened my mind up to other peoples’ way of thinking.

Archna at work with Effie

What the future looks like

Two years ago, I was living life in survival mode. Getting by, scraping through. Now I’ve learnt life shouldn’t be like that. I’m learning to appreciate things and live my life in the moment.

There are days when I get fearful, but I’m more attuned to those feelings and know how to deal with it in a more abundant way. That’s the fundamental difference for me.

I know those feelings are going to arise since we’re all human. But I can manage it a lot better because I now have confidence in myself.

Why we’re Mindful in May

Esha Oberoi shares her secrets to success
Afea CEO & Founder Esha Oberoi

By Afea Founder and CEO Esha Oberoi

Have you heard of the Mindful in May movement? It’s a global event that encourages us all to get started with daily mindfulness. Started by a doctor trained in psychiatry, Dr Elise Bialylew, it combines mindfulness training with an optional charity component to raise money for clean water projects. 

How’s your mental health?

Mental health problems are common. During our lives, over half of us will face some sort of mental health problem. Approximately 20% of Australians between 16-85 experience mental illness in any one year.

I’m sure you’ll agree the last year hasn’t helped. The impact of COVID-19 has meant a quarter of us have thought more about our mental health. 18% of Australians have used a mental health support service since the beginning of March 2020.

Mental illness has a huge economic cost too. A report last year found mental illness and suicide in Australia costs us $220 billion a year in lost economic participation and productivity. It’s an astounding number.

How mindfulness can help with our mental health

Even if you haven’t accessed a mental health service in the last year, many of us could probably do with some help. With the social isolation of lockdown, health anxiety, unemployment or underemployment, financial strains and home schooling, it’s been a difficult year.

While no one is saying mindfulness is a miracle solution, it is a useful and powerful tool that can help all of us manage this stress. So how does it work? It helps us train our minds so we don’t ruminate about the past or fear the future. It allows us to remain in the present to achieve clarity and perspective.

How do you do it?

Here are the tips we share in our Mindfulness sessions at Afea Care Services.

1. Stop and sit

The first step is to get yourself into a comfortable position. You don’t have to lie down or sit crossed legged if that doesn’t work for you. Just make sure you have a comfortable space and some time. Start with 5 minutes and build it from there.      

2. Still yourself

Focus your attention on the present. People often think you need to empty your mind, but that’s not the way it works. Simply pay attention to the present moment without judgement. Focus on a sound such as your breath or some background noise.

3. Other thoughts are ok

If you notice your mind wandering, that is normal and absolutely ok. Just notice them and let them pass. Then try to focus on the present again.

 4. Practice makes perfect

The more you practice, the better you’ll become, and the longer you’ll be in mindful meditation without distractions. In time, you’ll notice how it improves your perceptions and reactions in your day-to-day life.

Highlights from our recent Mindfulness and Self-Care Workshop with Carers.

Why we should practice mindfulness at work

At Afea Care Services, practicing mindfulness is something we encourage. We often hold mindfulness sessions throughout the month to give everyone a chance to reset and refocus.

We also encourage our carers to have mental health conversations with their clients and introduce mindfulness if they can.

Mental health still has a stigma, particularly in workplaces. It’s time we open up the conversation and be honest about the way we’re feeling. Introducing guided meditations during Mindful in May at work is one way we can all start this important conversation.

Why Afea loves Harmony Week

How we can help make sure everyone belongs

You’ve probably heard of Harmony Day, but did you know it’s now celebrated over a full week in Australia? Harmony Week runs from 15th to 21st March 2021 and includes United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is 21st March.

Harmony Week is so important to us at Afea. 45% of Australians were born overseas or have a parent who was. At Afea, many of us come from different cultural backgrounds and we’re so proud of this diversity. We love any reason to celebrate it and break down cultural barriers. Here’s why we love Harmony Week.

Happy diverse team harmony

What Harmony Week means to us

When it comes to diversity, we talk the talk – literally. We speak 40+ languages at Afea and support clients from a wide range of cultures. If a client wants a carer who speaks their language or comes from a similar cultural background to them, we do our best to accommodate that request.

We think the melting pot of diversity makes our company unique. No matter what cultural background you’re from, Afea will always be home. We encourage each other to share more about our backgrounds and try to learn from our differences.

How we’re celebrating Harmony Week

At Afea, we always take time out for Harmony Week. Each year we host a potluck in our office where we share a meal from our backgrounds. Food is such a powerful way to get people together – it’s a way for us to share what the meal means to us and why it’s special. This year will be no different. We will host a COVID-safe potluck and look forward to coming together as a team.

What we’re hoping to achieve this Harmony Week

Sharing a delicious meal is a symbol of what we hope we can achieve from Harmony Week. We come together as equals in Afea but unfortunately, it’s not that way in all communities in Australia. There are many racial inequalities we see every day, including discrimination and unequal access to health and education.

So what can we do? Many of these problems are huge systemic issues that require government support. As individuals, it’s understandable if you feel powerless. But by educating ourselves on each other’s cultures, not discriminating based on difference and teaching our children to do the same, we can create a society that belongs to all.

Here are some things you can do this Harmony Week:

Ask questions

The first step is to learn more about the other cultures around us. When we understand where people come from, it will help us build better relationships.

Start with a friend, neighbour, or colleague who comes from a different culture. Strike up a conversation about their background, ask where they come from and how their family came to Australia.

Learning about different cultures helps grow connections and can help us all learn about the unique perspectives that make up our great country.

Share your story

If you haven’t shared where you come from with many people, this is the perfect time to do it. You could share on a social media platform like Facebook or Instagram and download one of the social media banners on the Harmony Day website. You never know, the story of your family could be the catalyst for changing someone’s opinion about difference.

Or you could invite some friends around for a COVID-safe meal where you share your food and some of your favourite aspects of your culture.

Learn more about your culture

If you’ve grown up in Australia but have family from overseas, this could be a great time to learn more about where you’re from. Have a chat to your family or even see if you can get in touch with relatives overseas. Being proud of where we’ve come from and sharing that with others is an important part of Harmony Week.

Learn more about the cultures that make up Australia

A great way to learn about other cultures is to watch films and TV shows in other languages. There’s never been more access to foreign language films, from SBS and NITV with their huge range, to Netflix and even your local library.

Take the time to learn about Australia’s first people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been here for tens of thousands of years and have a rich culture and great ability to tell stories. Listen to their stories and learn about their culture both past and present

Talk about Harmony Week with your kids

If you have children, they’re probably learning about Harmony Week at school or childcare. However, you could spark further debate at home by discussing why it’s important for everyone to belong and why racism is wrong.

You could even encourage them to enter this Harmony Day Poster competition which is open to all school students in NSW and ACT.

From everyone at Afea, we wish you a Happy Harmony Week! If you’d like to learn more about what languages and cultures our carers represent, please get in touch with us.

Group of people with hearts on their faces

How we help our clients with their mental health

Why helping our clients with their mental health is so important at Afea

At Afea, talking about mental health isn’t something we only do on one awareness day or month. It’s pivotal to our workplace culture. We’ve spoken about how we work on mental health at work. As our carers spend most of their day with clients, we thought it was important to highlight how we help our clients with their mental health too.

We have learnt mental health first aid

With one in five of Australians experiencing a mental health illness each year, we recently trained up in mental health first aid. This amazing course gave us the skills to recognise when one of our friends, colleagues or clients is experiencing a mental health emergency and what to do about it. We are honoured to be part of the first million Australians to be trained up in mental health first aid.

We provide companionship services

Loneliness and isolation can have a profound effect on our mental health. A UK survey found that a quarter of people with a disability felt lonely every day. Loneliness has been compounded this year with Covid-19. People with a disability are considered more vulnerable so many people have had extended periods at home to avoid exposure to the virus.

The NDIA has made allowances for funding to be used more flexibly as a result of the pandemic, and people are able to use their funding in different ways. Often our clients would have services that took them out into the community or be involved in activities that are not as safe as they were. As an alternative, Afea carers have been visiting them in their homes to keep them company and do activities with them. It can be as simple as playing games, watching movies together or talking sport! Having this support and someone to spend time with can help reduce feelings of loneliness and social isolation and is a good way to use any outstanding funding.

We match carers and clients

When a new client joins us, we give a lot of thought to who we assign as a carer. Many of our clients see their carers every day, sometimes more than even their own family and friends. Which is why we find the best fit for both carers and clients. We match based on interests, cultural background and language so when they’re receiving services, they get along and become close. Feeling connected to someone can be a protective factor against anxiety and depression, so it’s vital that our carers and clients feel this genuine connection.

We check-in and follow up 

Caring for our clients’ mental health is just as important as their physical health. Our carers are so close to their clients that they can tell if they’re having a bad day. If they’re worried about a client for any reason, they report it back to head office. From there, we will have someone check-in with the client or we’ll talk to their family members. Our carers are like part of the family with their clients and always want what’s best for them.

We help our clients access social and community services

It’s not just about helping our clients within the home. We all know how important it is to get out and about for our mental health and it’s no different for our clients. We help our clients access social and community services such as craft groups, dance classes, book clubs or meetups with family and friends. We have provided extra PPE to make sure these social activities can go on wherever possible, even during this pandemic period.

If you want to know more about how we match our carers with our clients and the kind of services we provide, get in touch with us.

It’s never been more important to ask R U OK?

What we’re doing at Afea this R U OK Day

It’s no secret that many of us are struggling this year more than usual. Many have reduced income, increased health anxiety and our friends in Victoria are coping with a lockdown that must feel never-ending.

At Afea, mental health has always been a focus but we’re placing even more emphasis R U OK Day this year. This year the theme is “There’s more to say after R U OK?”. Here’s what we’re we’re doing:

We’re wearing yellow

Thursday 10th September 2020 is R U OK Day. Everyone in the office and even some of our carers are wearing yellow. It’s the colour of the charity R U OK Day and is a visual reminder to start a conversation.

We started our day with mindfulness

There’s evidence that mindfulness-based programs can improve stress resilience, relationships and help anxiety and depression. We have long been advocates of mindfulness at Afea and often include it in our team training sessions. Today, for  R U OK Day, we began our day with a mindfulness session so we can get in touch with our emotions and start our day with a clear state of mind.

We’re keeping an eye out

At Afea, we’re committed to providing a safe workplace where everyone can be comfortable showing their true selves. We encourage all our staff to think about their colleagues and clients and to keep an eye out if things don’t look quite right. If we don’t think we’re the right person to offer support, we do our best to find help through our Employee Assistance Programme or the person’s family member.

We’re encouraging everyone to continue the conversation

If anyone has a concern about a colleague, family member or friend, we encourage them to start a conversation and follow up with them after today.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Ask – When you ask the question, make sure you’re somewhere private and quiet. You want the person to feel comfortable enough to say ‘No’ if that’s what they’re feeling.
  2. Listen – Instead of trying to solve the problem, the best thing to do is listen. Don’t judge them or make any assumptions. Acknowledge that the problem sounds tough and show the person you’ve been listening by repeating the key points back to them.
  3. Encourage action – Ask them how they might have solved the problem in the past or what they think might help. They may need some expert help from a GP or a psychologist so encourage them to seek professional help.
  4. Check in – the theme for this year is ‘There’s more to say after R U OK?’ and we’re encouraging everyone to follow up. Put a reminder in your diary to check in with your friend in a few weeks. Remind them that you’re there for them and want to help if they need it.

We’re encouraging everyone to think of others in their lives who may not be ok

In these isolated times, many people simply haven’t seen their friends or family so may not know how they’re doing. We’re encouraging everyone to check in with people they haven’t seen in a while. Send them a letter or even bake them something and leave it on their doorstep. Ask that important question – R U OK and follow up in a few weeks. You never know if it’s the conversation that might change a life.

Visit the R U OK website for more conversation tips.

The COVID-19 precautions we’re taking to protect our Clients and staff

We’re committed to protecting the vulnerable from COVID-19.

We heard recently in the Disability Royal Commission public hearings about reports of support workers in Victoria exposing people with a disability to COVID-19. Stories like this concern us all. At Afea, we’re doing our best to minimise potential exposure of our Clients, Carers and staff to COVID-19.

According to the NDIS, we “have an obligation to make sure that any support or service that is required by a person with disability to maintain their health, wellbeing and safety is continued to be provided. It is expected that the way in which some supports and services are delivered will need to change.”

We have introduced the following precautions during this COVID-19 period:

  • We have been following all of the recommendations and requirements of the government. This includes self-isolation after travelling or if we’re showing any flu-like symptoms.
  • We have heavily invested in extra PPE such as masks, face shields and even full-body suits. In some cases, we are also using gloves and shoe coverings as an extra precaution. All of this extra PPE has been provided by Afea so our Carers or Clients aren’t out of pocket.
  • We have asked that all staff get flu shots, and we have reimbursed the expense.
  • We have created videos with instructions for Carers. Included in these videos are proper handwashing, using PPE correctly and social distancing.
  • We have provided compulsory COVID-19 training for Carers.
  • We now conduct initial assessments and meetings with new Clients remotely where possible.
  • We have introduced remote services and shopping on behalf of the client (particularly at the height of lockdown).
  • To ensure continuity of support for our clients, we’ve introduced A and B teams in the office and conduct most of our meetings remotely. We also check everyone’s temperatures and ask them to log their visit when entering the office.

We’re also very mindful of the impact this period is having on mental health. The isolation and health anxiety can take a toll on us all. Which is why we have introduced self-care measures for our Carers and staff.

Here’s what we’re doing to ensure the mental health of our staff, so our Clients remain in safe hands:

  • We have created a private Facebook group for Carers and office staff to connect.
  • Our leaders have conducted Facebook live streams to connect with Carers and answer questions on COVID-19. Included in these sessions were questions about how to look after your mental health and how to be mindful. We’ve also given suggestions on how Carers can deal with tough situations to make sure they’re looked after and are comfortable continuing services.
  • We’ve had complimentary mindfulness sessions for all Afea staff via Zoom.

In this time of uncertainty, we all must do our best to take all the necessary COVID-19 precautions and look out for each other.

Get in touch if you would like safe support from Afea Care Services.

For more information about updates, training, alerts, and resources for NDIS participants and providers, visit their website.

How you can celebrate World Gratitude Day

And what we’re grateful for at Afea

Every year in September, the world celebrates World Gratitude Day. It’s a day for us to celebrate what we have to be thankful for and how we can share this gratitude with others.

What is World Gratitude Day?

Spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy suggested World Gratitude Day in 1965 in Hawaii. The date was chosen as it is the Spring/Autumn Equinox and is one of only two times in the year where the days everywhere are equal length. Sri received the World Gratitude Day Award in 1977 in New York and the day has been honoured worldwide ever since.

Why is World Gratitude Day important?

The day allows everyone the opportunity to express appreciation for all the wonderful things in the world. Sri Chinmoy said in his acceptance speech: “As a seeker, I know that there is nothing on earth as valuable and significant as gratitude.”

This year has been a tough one for us all. We have been battling a global pandemic, many people have lost their livelihoods, loved ones and have spent months in isolation. We must be grateful for the things we do have, even if they don’t seem as bountiful as they used to be. When we count our blessings, we become more aware of the good things in our lives. We interrupt the cycle of negativity and see things in a more positive light.

What are you grateful for?

We are lucky at Afea to be grateful for so many things. We have a friendly and optimistic workplace and managers who lead with compassion. This month for World Gratitude Day think about the things you can be thankful for. They could include:

  • Your loved ones, whether they be your immediate family, friends or carers who you share your life with.
  • The food you have in your cupboard and where it comes from.
  • Your job or any other financial help you receive that helps pay your bills.
  • Our healthcare system in Australia which has done such a good job at managing COVID-19.
  • Our amazing nature including greenery everywhere and lots of beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
  • Our furry friends and the boundless joy they give.

How you can celebrate World Gratitude Day

Say thanks to someone special

Is there someone in your life who has helped you out recently? Or someone who you know is always there for you? You could write them a nice card or if you can’t see them in person, send them a text or give them a call. This celebration gives you the perfect opportunity to share your appreciation.

Thank your community

When you buy your morning coffee, do you ever properly thank the barista? What about the teacher at your child’s school or your postal worker who delivers your mail? This month, make the extra effort to thank these people in your life. Make sure they appreciate all the work they do for you every day. These people are being paid to do their job, but it’s also nice to feel appreciated for hard work.

Set up some thankful habits

How often do you think about the things you’re thankful for in your day? This month could be a good time to start some new gratitude habits. You could introduce a gratitude journal and write down one thing that you’re thankful for each day.

You could even encourage your family or household members to do the same. At dinner, you could ask each person what they’re thankful for that day. Explain to them that doesn’t have to be much, just something that made them feel thanks. You could even join the Just One Little Thing Movement – a community focused on finding happiness in the little things.

How are you going to celebrate World Gratitude Day this month?

How we work on our mental health at work

Why improving mental health in the workplace is so important at Afea

October is Mental Health Month. It’s a month where we focus on ways to bring awareness to mental wellbeing. For us at Afea though, improving mental health is something we work on all year long. It’s a pivotal part of our workplace culture and is something we are very passionate about.

Wellbeing has always been a focus for us. We believe you can’t look after others if you aren’t looking after yourself. This is why we’ve always taken measures to promote positive mental health and self-care to employees and clients. In 2020, it’s more important than ever that we take the time to look after the mental health of our community. Here is what we do.

Our mental health self-care program

As soon as staff and carers start to work with us, we introduce our mental health self-care program. Our Culture Book has a section dedicated to self-care which includes mindfulness and some easy full-body movements called the Tibetan Rites. Our staff and carers’ health is vitally important. If everyone spends 15-20 minutes a day on themselves, they will see positive improvements in every facet of their lives.

We don’t just talk the talk; we also walk the walk. We start many of our meetings with a sentiment check to see what headspace we are all in. We often have mindfulness sessions throughout the day so everyone can reset and focus on the tasks at hand.

Our CEO Esha Oberoi is our guiding light when it comes to mindfulness and self-care. She shares her self-care routine in her blog, in Facebook Live Sessions and messages to carers and staff. Knowing that this focus on improving mental health at work comes from the very top allows us all to prioritise it in our daily lives.

We tune in

This Year’s Mental Health Month theme is Tune In. They define this on their website as:

“It means being aware of what is happening within you, and in the world around you. Being present by tuning in has been shown to help build self-awareness, help make effective choices, reduce the impact of worry, and build positive connections.”

Tuning in to each other is important for good mental health at work. At Afea, we do this both formally and informally.

We have regular check-ins with our staff and our carers. We have a culture of two-way feedback and authenticity and we encourage our staff and carers to speak up if they have any concerns. Our 1-1s with direct reports are run by the employee so they can talk about what they’ve achieved and what they want to learn. It also provides them with a safe space where they can bring up any worries or suggestions for improvement.

We have an open-door policy which encourages staff to come to us whenever they have concerns. For our remote workers, we also have a group chat that we’re all part of. It gives our Sydney and Melbourne carers and office staff an opportunity to connect and share news, stories and photos. This connection means we tune in to each other and helps improve mental health in the workplace.

We take the opportunity to highlight mental health awareness

It’s important to give people opportunities to talk about mental illness. Sometimes the best way to do this is to acknowledge various awareness days and months, like Mental Health Month and RU Ok Day. We always mark these awareness days in our calendar, no matter how busy we are.

This month, we are having a mindfulness session in the office as well as a yoga session. We are also doing a hip-hop class to help get the blood flowing and create a bonding experience for the office staff.

In September, we wore yellow for RU OK Day and used the day as an extra opportunity to check in with our colleagues, carers and clients. We also recognised World Happiness Day in May with a morning tea to remind each other that we’re a team and we are here for each other. 

How are you tuning in this Mental Health Month?  

What we learnt doing a mental health first aid course

Why mental health first aid is a crucial skill to know

You’ve probably heard of physical first aid courses and many of you may have done one. But have you heard of mental health first aid? With one in five Australians experiencing a common mental health illness each year, it’s likely to affect us all at some point, directly or indirectly. Afea recently trained a number of staff and Carers in mental health first aid so we can do our best to assist when the need arises. Here’s what we learnt.

What is mental health first aid?

Many of us have experienced a mental health problem but often friends, family and carers aren’t sure how to help. We often haven’t been taught the skills or don’t have the confidence to know what to say. Sometimes saying nothing is the worst thing of all, so we must learn more about how to help someone in a mental health crisis.

Doing a mental health first aid courses teaches you the skills to help someone you’re concerned about. Like physical first aid, it’s the support and care given until the appropriate professional help is received or the crisis is resolved.

Afea colleagues doing a mental health first aid course
Mental Health First Aid Textbook

Why did Afea and Inebura do a mental health first aid course?

This year has been a tough year for many of us and we have seen more participants with mental health conditions. NDIA recognises mental health conditions as a disability and is providing more funding for them than ever before.

At Afea, working on our mental health and our clients’ mental health is one of our key areas of priority. Which is why we provided mental health first aid training for many of our internal staff and support workers. Our independent division, Inebura, also had their Support Coordinators join the training module. Many of our Support Workers came together in Parramatta for the two-day course. It was such a popular topic that other staff couldn’t make it on site chose to do the course remotely in their spare work time.

What did we learn in the course?

We covered typical types of mental health conditions including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety problems
  • Psychosis
  • Substance use problems
  • Gambling problems
  • Eating disorders.

We then learnt first aid for specific situations such as:

  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviours
  • Non-suicidal self-injury
  • Panic attacks
  • Following a traumatic event
  • Severe psychotic states
  • Severe effects from alcohol and drug use
  • Aggressive behaviours
Afea colleagues doing a mental health first aid course
Mental Health Training

We know from days like RU OK Day how important it is to make sure our friends, colleagues and clients are feeling ok. But if they say they are and we suspect they’re not, what do we do? At this course, we learnt what to look for if we suspect things aren’t ok. We learnt how to have difficult conversations about mental health and how to help our friend access services like a GP or a mental health counsellor.

According to Jack, one of Inebura’s Support Coordinators, this course was invaluable. “The course gave us a 360-degree view of mental health and the different types experienced. It prepared us with how to deal with a person experiencing different kinds of mental illness. It provided us with the tools and strategies to help them overcome the barriers that they’re facing during their difficult journey. Most importantly, it taught us how to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others.”

How do you find out more?

We highly recommend everyone does a mental health first aid course if they can. Find out more at https://mhfa.com.au/