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Reasons Why Every Business Can Benefit From a Mental Health First Aider

Why Mental Health Needs To Be Heard

In continuation with Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to bring the attention to something that I believe is being recognised more and more by various job firms and companies; mental health first aid.

Paying attention to mental health at work is a necessity and a must. The affect on how we look out for one another can create a cascade reaction of how it can affect your fellow colleagues, your friends and your family.

Not only that, but it can also affect the way you can perform at work too. So, by becoming a mental health first aider, this can bridge the gap of mental health stigmatisation and allow your workplace to create a space where it is safe and open.

Make sure your workplace makes mental health heard more and let it be addressed because the self-care and own well-being of each individual can make a huge impact. Not only the company’s success but also individual’s livelihood.

In terms of diversity and equality, anyone with mental health disorder or anyone who’s mental health is affected in anyway, should all be treated fairly and equally.

If your workplace have networks, make sure to join them to let your voice be heard, such as a Diversity network or even attending mental health workshops.

Mental Health First Aid Training

Mental Health First Aid training can provide various tools in ways that can allow you to have a deeper understanding on the impact of people’s mental health and how you can use practical skills in everyday life.

A standard course can go though these topics:

  • Common mental health problems
  • Alcohol, drugs and depression
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Crisis first aid for suicidal behaviour and depression
  • What are anxiety disorders
  • Crisis first aid for panic attacks and acute stress reaction
  • What are psychotic disorders (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder)?

Source: http://www.hazards.org/stress/mentalhealth.htm

There are various courses that are available online, if you wish to learn yourself but there is a fee to pay! However, liaise and discuss with your line manager/HR team/Diversity Network and see how you get your company to help fund mental health first aid training. (This includes on-site and remote workplaces, such as working from home).

Useful Resources

In the blog post, I am thrilled to have contacted a few talented working women to share their experience in becoming a mental health first aider at work and why.

Here are some helpful resources:

Mental Health First Aid England has provided such a diverse wide range of resources that are downloadable and can be used within the workplace and outside of work too.

Mental Health First Aid at Work – Siemens

Mental Health First Aider Cases

Abigail, Volunteer Coordinator, Art Museum

“I became a designated mental health first aider for the Royal Society of Sculptors in February 2020. It was suggested to me as part of my role as Volunteer Coordinator.

I jumped at the opportunity as mental health particularly resonates with me, having battled with anxiety related issues for a number of years.

To be a designated advocate (not just in the workplace!) and being able to give back and offer help to others who may be struggling, is extremely rewarding.

As a mental health first aider, you are mainly the first point of contact for someone in need and signposting to relevant services if required. Plus, identifying signs and providing immediate help to those who might be in mental distress.

Above anything else it’s about being open, providing a sympathetic and non-judgemental ear. Looking after your mental health is more important now than ever in times of COVID-19 and beyond!

I believe every workplace should have a mental health first aider, our mental health is just as important as physical. Anyone can be affected and you never know who might be suffering.”

Nikki, Consultant, Nuclear Industry

“The topic of mental health and mental health awareness in the work place seemed to become a popular topic of conversation in 2018.

I was aware of some tips and tricks from when I worked with special needs children in a school. In that setting, people understood that sometimes people have bad days, and that’s okay. We would rearrange task schedules to allow some staff more breathing room and rotate around more frequently.

In my current job, it is a very different setting: in an office, producing deliverable to clients. This is a fast paced job where you have to be flexible, creative and get the science right!

In 2018, our HR team emailed round asking for volunteers to become mental health champions. This involved a 1-day course with Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England. I volunteered to become a Mental Health First Aider for a number of reasons.

Firstly, because I believe it is so important to look after your mental health. My job can be stressful and challenging (adhering to tight timelines, cost and scope) and a lot of people put work before happiness.

Secondly, I knew no one else in my office would volunteer for the extra duties. I felt it was so important for our satellite office to be represented. To have the same support and training as the main office.

I would highly recommend the 1-day MHFA course to anyone. It was really engaging and insightful. I left that day feeling more confident in not only how to advise others but also how to look after myself better.

They also provide you with an exhaustive list of support/help lines, apps, websites and organisations in so many areas. It made me feel a lot better equipped for when someone has come to me for a discussion, whether formally or informally.

It’s so important to take time for yourself and check that you are okay (whatever okay is for you). To understand that bad days may last a few, but don’t last forever.”

Jonny, Material Specialist, Medical Training

“There were various reasons why I wanted to become a mental health first aider. Firstly, it is a skill that would deem useful and also developmental. Being able to use this qualification will also enable me to use the skills to support friends, family and the public.

Being a mental health first aider should be recognised the same as a physical health first aider. 

Having known a lot of people in my life having mental health disorders, it was this initial thought that triggered me into signing up to the mental health first aid training at work. 

I initially was trained in my previous job. The company I worked for was a big pharmaceutical. They set up a mental health team and wanted to encourage mental health initiatives throughout the company.

In order to do this, they got people to sign up from each department to become a mental health first aider. This process included a short statement to why I would be suitable for the role. 

The company I worked for created the mental health first aid role as part of our job specification. We had performance reviews and objectives towards being a first aider. We had a generous budget to fund mental health resources and was sponsored by our general manager of the site. 

With this, it enabled the company to invest more in materials, time and training into mental health support. 

Nowadays, bigger companies are looking to push towards mental health support and funding. This is also being recognised by the government too. Mental health first aid is seen as a preventative measure, whereas physical health first aid is seen as accidental. 

Stress is the largest cause of mental health and biggest cost to the UK economy. This is due to many people taking time off due to stress or mental health related illnesses.

It is important for businesses out there to invest in mental health resources to not only support the economy but an individual’s health too. 

Being a mental health first aider has gained my confidence in approaching people who need my help and also the ability to understand and react to a related situation.” 

Katy, HR Coordinator, Human Resources

“Over the years, both personally and at work. I have encountered the effects that mental health issues and life challenges can cause for individuals from depression, learning difficulties, bereavement, bullying, etc. These experiences have encouraged me to take a general interest in understanding mental health and in leading a mentally healthy life.

Furthermore, since joining a HR team, I have become more aware of how stress and mental health conditions have increased in the workplace and the impact this is widely having.

I felt my knowledge and experiences could help others facing similar challenges in their life. So, about a year ago, I decided to volunteer to be a workplace Mental Health First Aider when my employer announced the scheme’s introduction. 

As part of the scheme I had to attend the two day training course, which was intensely packed full of knowledge and practical elements. But the trainers and content enabled me to feel capable in hearing individuals’ stories, helping them in a crisis and giving them the resources to get the help they need.

 Since the network’s launch, we have successfully supported a number of people with their concerns and even each other by checking in regularly and sharing useful advice we have gained.

My key resources if you find you are struggling at work would be to reach out to your GP or your local psychological therapies service. They can work with you on finding the path best for you to improve your mental health. If you’re unsure of your local services, then the NHS webpages can facilitate finding your nearest one.

You can always contact your HR team for specific workplace advice, but also Mind and the Mental Health Foundation have information on mental health support in the workplace.

Most importantly, these web pages cover how you can support your colleagues who are struggling. Discussing mental health with others or enquiring if they are okay if they are behaving differently can mean the world to a person.

I would encourage you to watch this video of Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn talking in an interview about how powerful this simple act can be (N.B. suicide and severe mental health is covered).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrcBUr974tM
Stranger on the Bridge by Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn

If though you find yourself feeling you have reached crisis point with your mental health, I would recommend contacting the SamaritansShout Crisis Text Line or NHS 111.”

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