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Mental Health First Aiders – what are they and why every workplace needs them

We have all come across a first aider at work at some point in our working lives.

Most offices have a number of trained people who can provide help for physical first aid, this usually involves offering assistance to help preserve life, prevent further harm, provide comfort and promote recovery. It’s a given in any modern workplace environment.

But what about when it comes to the mental health of the employees on site? Who do they turn to in a crisis or simply for support?

Nowadays, more and more workplaces are becoming aware of the implications of poor mental health among employees, and it is heartening to see so many wanting to take steps to offer support.

Many workplaces now have trained Mental Health First Aiders in place – and it is just as vital a role as the Physical First Aider we can sometimes take for granted.

Mental Health First Aiders are employees who are trained to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and to provide support to anyone who might be experiencing emotional distress. 

At its most basic level, the role is a first point of contact for an employee who may be struggling in some way.

Mental Health First Aiders will have the practical and emotional skills needed to offer the right level of support and to know when they need to point them in the direction of external assistance. It might start and end as a simple conversation, or it might extend to helping the employee access third party expert help.

But the role is much more than having a conversation and helping someone in crisis; it is also about influencing change in the workplace to better support the whole organisation.

Having mental health first aid training as an option helps people within the organisation feel able to talk more openly about mental health and goes a long way to removing any stigma.

As well as being that first point of contact, the Mental Health First Aider would be able to offer insights, raise awareness on the topic of mental health and share coping strategies such as Action for Happiness’s 10 keys to happier living. These are: Giving, relating, exercising, awareness, trying out, direction resilience, emotions, acceptance, meaning and you can read more here:

Having an active and enthusiastic team of Mental Health First Aider’s will help promote a culture of wellbeing and positivity that is vital for any workplace to remain productive, efficient, and happy.

Being compassionate and a good listener is a good start, but anyone in an organisation can explore becoming a Mental Health First Aider, with the right training.

At The Helpful Coach Ltd, we offer a range of courses to help you understand more about the role of a Mental Health First Aider and to train to become one.

Our Mental Health First Aid (Adult) course is certified by Mental Health First Aid England and teaches participants how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue.

We also have a refresher course to keep your skills up to date and another to help people understand the role of a Mental Health First Aider.

If you are looking for a qualification, we are certified to provide the following courses: 

  • Awareness of First Aid for Mental Health Level 1/4
  • First Aid for Youth Mental Health Level 2
  • First Aid for Mental Health Level 2/5
  • Supervising First Aid for Mental Health Level 3/6

These courses are accredited by First Aid Awards who are an Awarding Organisation regulated by Ofqual and SQA Accreditation. 

We congratulate any employer that is looking to set up a mental health first aid network within an organisation and we would offer these five tips for success:

  • Break down any stigma by having a senior leader champion your mental health initiative and actively engage with this at every stage
  • Evaluate and assess the current support the organisation has in place for mental health issues and any referral mechanisms in place (e.g., an EAP – employee assistance programme).
  • Have a clear job specification and guidance for the role of Mental Health First Aider that is shared ahead of anyone volunteering for the role. Ensure that managers understand the role and the time it may take for any of their team members who get trained up.
  • Appoint someone who will support the first aiders – like the ‘supervision coach’ that all professional coaches must regularly check in with. You cannot leave them unsupported or not be aware of the kind of, and volume of, issues they are facing.
  • Be crystal clear about when you, the organisation, will intervene and ask a Mental Health First Aider to take a break or step out of a situation.

For more information about how we can help you and your organisation, get in touch with us.

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