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Last Updated: Monday, 20 June, 2005, 00:03 GMT 01:03 UK
New moves to spot mental illness
Depressed woman
Efforts are being made to spot early signs of mental illness
Health officials have launched a trail blazing drive aimed at spotting early signs of mental illness.

The Mental Health First Aid scheme is aimed at health service staff, job centres, colleges, voluntary groups, and the police and ambulance services.

The push, developed in Australia, was tested in Scotland last year.

NHS Health Scotland chief executive Graham Robertson said he believed it was a course that would be accessible to all.

He added: "It will assist with a better understanding of mental health problems and what people can do to support others.

"A key message that the trainees take from the training is that with the right understanding, empathy and support, people with mental health problems can and do get better."

I had convinced myself that I would be living with depression for the rest of my life
Linda Goslan
Mental illness sufferer

Patient Linda Goslan said she had suffered from severe depression for about nine years and was unable to work for extended periods of time.

She explained: "My current employer is understanding and supports me by tailoring my working hours.

"It wasn't until a friend shared her knowledge from her training as a mental health first aid instructor that I realised that it would take more than doctors' appointments and medication to help make me better."

Ms Goslan added: "In fact, I had convinced myself that I would be living with depression for the rest of my life.

"My friend showed me otherwise. I know now that I can help myself with the right support to take more positive steps to recover."

Spokeswoman for the Australian National University, Betty Kitchener, said that Scotland was leading the way with mental health first aid in Europe.

Minister's support

She added: "I see this as the catalyst for mental health first aid spreading across the UK and Europe."

As many as 70 people have qualified as instructors this year and 300 will be trained over the next three years.

Deputy Health Minister Rhona Brankin said: "Good mental health underpins all health, and early support is vital for anyone experiencing mental health problems that affect their day-to-day lives.

"That is why this training is so important. It gives people the knowledge, skills and confidence to support their friends, family, work colleagues and others who may be experiencing mental health problems."

She went on: "The benefits of mental health first aid are priceless. There is no doubt about it, mental health first aid helps both improve and save lives."

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