Kelly Dubberley

Kelly Dubberley, a Health, Safety and Wellbeing Adviser with Barwon Water, knows all too well the value of addressing mental health.

He is part of a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) team at the Geelong-based organisation, after completing genU Training’s two-day MHFA course.

The team provides an avenue for fellow staff to start a conversation about mental health, and learn about services available in the Geelong region.

Kelly was initially interested in the course after experiencing personal tragedy following the death of his father. In 2011, Kelly took on a job as a safety advisor in Western Australia. Part of his role included welfare checks on contractors who had not turned up to work or had failed to contact their designated supervisors.

Over four years, there were 15 recorded suicides on Kelly’s sites, and many stories of contractors attempting or contemplating suicide.

But a series of unusual phone calls from his father gave Kelly an uneasy feeling, and led to one of the most difficult discoveries of his life.

“I was at work two weeks into a four-week roster when I received a call from my father to have a general chat about life, asking how my kids were and to me this was just a normal father-son conversation,” Kelly said.

“Two days later I received a call from him again, and he was asking when I was coming home which I thought was strange as I’d already told him in the previous phone call. Three days after that he called again, and pretty well mirrored the last conversation we’d previously had,” he said.

Kelly flew to Melbourne a week after the phone calls, and received news that his father had attempted to take his own life by drinking a cup of alloy wash acid. Despite treatment at a hospital, Kelly’s father died a few hours later.

“I found out the next day that Dad had been diagnosed with depression and was on a few different medications to try and manage his situation. It was discovered that one of the forms of mediation he was taking had a number-one side effect which may give you suicidal tendencies,” Kelly said.

“To this day we don’t know why he did it and to be honest we never will.”

MHFA training teaches participants about identifying the signs and symptoms of common and disabling mental health problems, how to provide initial help, and how to get professional help.

The two-day course has been widely evaluated in research trials conducted by MHFA Australia and independent organisations. These evaluations consistently show that participants who complete the course have improved knowledge of mental illnesses, their treatments, and confidence in providing first aid to individuals showing signs of a mental illness.

Barwon Water was looking at ways of helping its employees address mental health concerns, and created a group of MHFA trainers with more than 15 staff completing the MHFA course over the past two years.

Kelly said the course had been invaluable in helping his workmates address mental health concerns, and had also helped him come to terms with his personal experiences.

“I requested to do it for the simple fact that it was a personal journey for me, to try and stick the puzzle pieces together in my life,” he said.

“After the second day, it really hit home that I could make a difference here, and for the first time I felt the weight lifted off my shoulders personally.

“I thought if I could do a similar thing for one person over the next 12-month period, then I’ve done my job.”

Kelly said the training gave people practical skills in identifying anyone who might be experiencing a mental illness.

“Mental health affects everyone right across the board, young and old, male and female, people in the field, people in the office. They do say that mental health doesn’t discriminate and that’s 100 per cent spot on” he said.

“From the training I’ve done, I’ve found I can use it outside of work to help family and friends and I get so much satisfaction out of knowing I can identify the signs now – to be able to give the advice is actually pretty powerful.”

Commencing Thursday March 1 at the Eastern Hub, approximately 50 industry representatives will meet to form the first Mental Health Industry Advisory Network. Organisations attending include Barwon Water, TAC, GMHBA, WorkCover, Geelong CFA, COG Branches and many more.

genU Training is hosting the network sessions which will allow employers to learn more about current findings and developments in the area of mental health and wellbeing effecting the workplace.

For more information about the sessions and genU’s MHFA training contact Julie Haddock at

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