It’s no secret that being on the front line of emergency care can be a traumatic experience for lifeguards and that being able to identify some of the signs and symptoms of someone experiencing mental distress vital in administering initial treatment.

This Tuesday and Wednesday a group of Lifeguards from Northern NSW will participate in a unique workshop designed to give them a better understanding of mental health first aid training.
Over 15 Lifeguards from the Tweed, Ballina, Byron Bay, the Clarence, and Port Macquarie have signed up for the 2-day course which will be conducted through Northern NSW Health.

The workshop will be led by registered nurse Steve Carrigg who has almost three decades of experience working in the mental health sector.

Importantly a key focus of the workshop will not just be on the mental health of those they might come into contact with in an emergency situation but how to identify the signs that a colleague might be struggling.

It is both a normal and very human reaction to be effected by a traumatic experience and Lifeguards in Northern NSW have been through a tough 18 months.

Ballina Shire Lifeguard Supervisor, Ruben Roxburgh who encouraged his teammates to attend the course said it was a vital part of improving your skills as well-rounded Lifeguard.

“I really believe that the importance of mental health is a growing concern for not only Lifeguards but also the wider community.

“Lifeguards are at the forefront of dealing with people and to have these skills and ability to recognise these signs is an important part of creating a stronger lifeguard service. It is crucial that we are able to understand to differences within the community and be adaptable which is what this course aims to teach us,” Mr Roxburgh said.

When queried about whether this course was something Lifeguards would ever have considered even as recently as a decade ago, the 18-season-veteran was frank in his response.

“I know I’m closer to the end of my beach career than the beginning and one of the great things in recent seasons is how much support we’ve had in expanding and improving the skills and knowledge of all Lifeguards.

“The management right across the ALS have given us incredible support and proved to be original thinkers and provided access to training that has not only improved our skills as Lifeguards but as people as well,” said Mr Roxburgh

“I am at the stage where I really want to mentor the next generation and ensure they’re prepared for the challenges that await them. A solid understanding of mental health will play an important part in that.”

Photograph – ALS Lifeguards particpate at the 2016 Mental Health Workshop which took place during Mental Health Week. Courtesy of Ruben Roxburgh