The Department’s frontline staff cannot and are not expected to be in a position, or have the expertise to, clinically assess the mental health needs of customers. However, the Department has taken initiatives to raise mental health awareness among its staff.
Since 2010, Mental Health Ireland has assisted in the delivery of a one-day training course to staff in the Department to raise awareness of mental health issues. 356 staff members have received this training to date. Local mental health support organisations, such as AWARE, have also been invited to talk to staff where a need is identified.
In addition, following feedback from frontline staff and management, a need was recognised to support staff in dealing with customers who identify themselves as having thoughts of suicide. Over the past year, with assistance from the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP), the Department has provided ‘safeTALK’ training to 82 frontline staff. This training programme helps prepare participants to identify persons with thoughts of suicide and connect them to suicide first aid resources.
Also this year, the NOSP has provided access to the ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills) training workshop to the Department’s staff. This two-day workshop trains participants to reduce the immediate risk of a suicide and increase the support for a person at risk. A small number of staff has received this training to date.
The Department will continue to provide these mental health training supports to frontline staff and management.