A few weeks ago I attended a mental health first aid course along with a couple of my colleagues. It was run by the good people at Creative Support on behalf of MHFA England. If we’re being honest, it’s disappointing to say that like many, we haven’t always given the same credence to mental health as to physical health in the workplace. We’ve always had trained physical first aiders, of which I’m one, but until recently we haven’t had designated mental health first aiders.
The bottomline is we all have mental health. We can have good mental health and we can have poor mental health at times. It’s that clear. The stats are more common than you might think when you start looking. One in four people in the UK experience mental health issues each year, with one in five indicating they take time off work due to stress.
Regital has always tried to do the right thing by our people. So we really wanted to have the tools to support and look after our team. We were eager to find out more as we embarked on the two day course.
What is Mental Health First Aid?
The first thing we learned was First Aid and Mental Health First Aid have the same aims.
1. Preserve life
2. Prevent further harm
3. Promote recovery
4. Provide comfort
Even though mental health issues are so common, the stigma and discrimination associated with mental ill health will often lead to people feeling shame and hiding their difficulties and inturn not receiving adequate treatment. It is really important that we consider people as individuals, rather than making assumptions based on their diagnosis. It’s time to change the language we use about mental health and drop the outdated and ingrained negative terms.
The course was split into these four sessions over the two days. We were taught how to notice the basic symptoms from mild depression to eating disorders, self harm to psychosis and most things in between.
The subject matter was often triggering as we heard people’s first hand account of their mental illness and how they recovered. The important point to mention is that there is always hope for recovery with many people living fulfilled lives. A few weeks ago I would have possibly written “normal lives” but since embarking on this course I am very conscious of the language I now use.
Mental Health Action Plan
Throughout the course we were reminded of the mental health action plan, the best way to help a person in a mental health crisis or if we recognised any sign of mental health issues.
It’s mnemonic is ALGEE and by lunchtime we’d almost committed the five basic steps to memory to the delight of our incredible instructors.
Approach the person, assess and assist with any crisis
Listen and communicate non-judgmentally
Give support and information
Encourage the person to get the appropriate professional help
Encourage other support.
The Mental health continuum
There are varying degrees of health and it doesn’t have an on/off switch. Same applies to your mental health. People move on a continuum ranging from good mental health to ok health to poor health to illness. Factors like burning the candle at both ends, presenteeism and burnout are all contributors that can move you around the different sections of the mental health continuum. We learned that making sure you’re getting enough sleep, water and making time for yourself (self care) are paramount to keeping you in good mental health.
At the end of day two we proudly became qualified Mental Health First Aiders and were given our certificates and most importantly our green branded lanyards that indicates to anyone that we are approachable, ready to listen and signpost them to professional support.
There’s so many takeaways from the course. The hearing voices workshop, stress container awareness and the self care mantra “You can’t pour from an empty cup” – meaning you can’t help someone if you yourself are not in a good place and will always stay with me.
But the main point would be that we feel more confident, knowledgeable and know we can offer support to anyone who needs it. We’re a better Regital as a result. No matter which sector you work in, mental ill health will be having an impact on your people. We’re so glad we took the course and aim to have more of the Regital team qualified as mental health first aiders in 2022.