Mental Health First Aid …. What’s That?

We all have physical health and sometimes need first aid we all have mental health and may also need first aid.

Becoming a Mental Health First Aider offers you an opportunity to learn about how to help someone who may be experiencing mental health issues.  Someone in your work place, your family, your friendship group. It doesn’t mean you are their counsellor or psychiatrist, it means that you are trained to offer an empathic approach and some practical guidance on how to get help.

Alongside my work at Hestia, I’ve been a listening volunteer with the Samaritans for the past six years. Having come into contact with so many people who are experiencing a mental health condition, I’ve become fully aware of just how important our mental health is. The conversation around mental health needs to expand – and how early intervention is also vital.

It's not strange there is a first aider in all workplaces but a Mental Health First Aider is still very rare. As soon as I saw the opportunity to become a Mental Health First Aider at Hestia, I was more than happy to put my hand up.

The training was excellent and very thought provoking. Everyone in the group was comfortable with sharing their own experiences with mental health, so we were all able to relax and learn from each other’s experience. It was really enlightening. 

Discussions during the training day focused on:

  • Our own perceptions of mental health
  • How to create a culture of empathy and awareness
  • How we'll act as a first point of need to listen, support and signpost
  • Practising possible scenarios to be as prepared as possible

It was inspiring to learn more about how mental health impacts different people, as well as developing practical skills to spot the signs of mental health issues. I truly felt that my confidence grew in being able to approach a reassure someone in distress.

I think it’s vital for all organisations to have designated mental health first aiders available. It’ll benefit all employees, as well as the organisation itself.

Poor mental health is one of the most commons reasons for long-term sickness absence from work, so I think intervening and providing support for staff is such an important first step.

I believe Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace is an excellent way of allowing employees to feel valued, but most importantly, they would act as a step towards an individual accessing the support they need. 

Mental Health First Aiders should help to reduce the stigma around mental health in the workplace, which in turn should raise awareness and encourage general discussion. This can only be a benefit to us all! 

Even after working with those experiencing poor mental health, I still feel that I have things to learn. I believe in continual learning, and working with other Mental Health First Aiders, I think we’ll be able to continue to challenge stigma and encourage open dialogue around these issues.

Learn more about Hestia's Mental Health Support here.