WNSW PHN Delivers Accidental Counsellor Training to Central North First Responders


The Western NSW Primary Health Network (WNSW PHN) has joined with Lifeline Central West and Central North NSW Police District to deliver potentially life-saving Accidental Counsellor training to local General Duties Officers and Detectives.

Covering the Bogan, Bourke, Brewarrina, Cobar and Walgett Shires, officers of the Central North Police District, under the command of Superintendent Andrew Hurst, are often the first to respond to a mental health related call in the region, requiring extra skills to ensure the safety of all parties while undertaking their duties.

Delivered across March 8 to 10, 2021, Officers and Detectives were trained in understanding common mental health conditions, the role of alcohol and drug use in a crisis, improving identification of situations Police are attending and what supports are required in each, as well as improving confidence, skills and knowledge when responding to events related to mental health, suicide and non-suicidal self-injury.

WNSW PHN Acting CEO, Robert Strickland, says the training delivered will be a potential lifesaver in the Central North District.

“Training First Responders to respond confidently and competently to a suicidal crisis is an important component of a systems-based suicide prevention program. We know that Police in the Central North are often the first to respond to a call regarding mental health and suicide and need training that is locally relevant and informed,” said Mr Strickland.

Mr Strickland added, “We are grateful for the opportunity to work with frontline Police and appreciate the passion they have for their work and their willingness to share their experiences, challenges and ideas on opportunities for improvement and earlier intervention.”

Life Central West Dubbo Centre Manager, Cate Whiteley, said, “Lifeline Central West was honoured to work with WNSW PHN and the members of Superintendent Hurst’s Police District this week. With a shared desire to manage the physical and psychological wellbeing of both police responders and individuals in crisis, risks were discussed, myths were dispelled, and support gaps were identified.”

Central North NSW Police District Superintendent, Andrew Hurst, says the Accidental Counsellor Training is absolutely vital for his team.

“Police are receiving more calls regarding mental health than ever before and our frontline workers need the knowledge and skills to be able to effectively de-escalate a crisis so that further medical or psychological support can be sought.”

Superintendent Hurst added, “Our Police District has its own unique challenges and so gaining access to locally developed, evidence-informed training through the PHN and Lifeline Central West has been beneficial for our team.”

Anyone who is experiencing personal difficulties, or have concerns for a loved one, are encouraged to seek help via specialised mental health services, including Lifeline, on 13 11 14, or Beyond Blue, at

(Photo: Left-Right)

Jodie Williams: Lifeline Central West Manager Crisis Support Services
Kirsty Smith: WNSW PHN Senior Project Officer Suicide Prevention
Superintendent Andrew Hurst: Central North Police District Commander
Inspector Trent Swinton: Officer In Charge, Central North Police District
Cate Whiteley: Lifeline Central West Dubbo Centre Manager