COMMENT:

I see St John is now offering a mental health first aid course due to the rising number of mental health call outs.

It'll teach people how to recognise signs of mental distress, how to respond and where to get help for anything from anxiety, depression, problem gambling, alcohol and drug abuse, to suicide and self-harm.

The reason they're doing this is because they recognise mental health services have reached crisis point. They say those with issues don't know were to turn or are confused, or don't want to talk about it.

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Which is exactly what those tasked with reporting on the state of our mental health services in this country have found too.

The mental health inquiry wraps up this Friday with the last of its public meetings.

Inquiry head Ron Paterson said the common theme, from the thousands of submitters over the past three months, was a lack of services.

Those struggling need to be able to get help when and where they need it. And it's not just more money they're after either.

Submitters have asked for more education and more training around mental health too.

Anyone who has had any experience dealing with these services knows how flawed and fragile they are - and what sort of impact it can have on sufferers and their families.

Many still suffer in silence, despite the stigma around mental health being addressed, and it's still a very confronting and scary thing to do. We should all be grateful to those who have been brave enough to speak up.

I'm heartened by the words of the man in charge of the inquiry, who said they won't just be reporting back to Government in October about what it might want to hear, but instead it'll be honouring the voices of the people they've heard from.

The best we can hope for now is that the Government not only gets to hear those voices, but listens and then acts on what it hears.

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It's likely a Mental Health Commission will be established.

Let's hope this is finally the time we get some action, so that we haven't wasted the words and the time of all those who were gutsy enough to take part.

And in the interim, thank god for St John, who've been proactive enough to recognise (a) that there are large gaps, and (b) offering something to fill them.