Becoming A Mental Health First Aider
Whilst the last couple of years have been tough, with having to navigate our lives through a global pandemic; there has been one positive change I’ve noticed myself. Mental health is now being talked about more and more, and the stigma that once came with it is rapidly sinking away. People are now starting to feel a lot more comfortable talking openly about their experiences and the issues they face. So, I’d like to use this blog to talk about what we at Cirrico are doing to make sure we’re on the right side of mental health, the conversation and making sure everyone who works here is supported every day.
I think it’s now really apparent that our mental well being is just as important as our physical well being, they are inherently linked and intertwined with each other; and one can easily impact and affect the other. We have First Aiders, trained and ready to respond to someone having a physical medical emergency, but what about someone suffering with an ongoing mental health issue or experiencing a mental health episode? Well, the great news is the Mental Health First Aider does exist! I, along with my colleague Safiyyah Gareeboo recently undertook an intensive two day course to gain the qualification to become a mental health first aider, which gave us the knowledge and supporting documentation; so I’d like to share what the responsibilities are, how it can help and how you can become a qualified MHFA as well!
First thing’s first, as a mental health first aider we’re not trained as therapists or counselors and so we shouldn’t act like one nor try to diagnose a mental health issue for someone. So our first and most important responsibility is to be a point of contact for anyone in the business experiencing mental health issues. We’re here to provide support, guidance but most of all listen to our colleagues when they need someone to talk to and empathise with that person as much as we can. It sounds pretty straightforward, but it’s critical we remain calm and reassure the person that we’re here to listen. We’ve also been trained to respond to someone experiencing a mental health episode, which could be a colleague experiencing severe mental health symptoms over a period of time; these episodes could be brief, such as two to three days or go on for longer periods of time, and again we’re here to listen and offer support when needed.
The second responsibility for us is to be an advocate for mental health in the workplace, working with management to reduce the stigma around mental health, encourage openness and enact positive change within the business. We can provide support for return to work interviews if someone has been off sick due to their mental health and also help refine our policies and procedures to ensure everyone is getting the right support and are being listened to.
Finally, provided from the course are a number of materials and resources that we’re able to share, these range from websites that offer meditation tracks to charities providing services such as therapy, counselling and free phone lines to call if an individual would like to speak to a professional and seek further support. There’s a wealth of resources out there and we’re building up a comprehensive list to make sure we can offer the best guidance when someone comes to us.
And that’s it, in a relatively small nutshell… But becoming a MHFA is incredibly rewarding and whilst the two day course is hands-on and intense, you’ll meet a number of equally passionate people and learn so much from the experience I could only recommend it to anyone who’s good at listening and wants to be a force for change.
There’s a number of charities and organisations who offer the course which you can google, however I went with St John’s Ambulance, who provide the two day course with a number of different onsite locations and teachers who are all experienced first aiders and have a wealth of experience..
So, go forth, become a force for change and most importantly, listen 🙂