AB Thinks  →  11th May 2021

Becoming a mental health first aider

Awareness of mental health issues within the workplace is growing. At AB, we’re committed to creating an open conversation and a supportive culture that is conducive to the well-being of our team.

Keen to broaden our knowledge on the subject, I recently attended a 2-day Mental Health First Aid course run by MHFA England. The purpose of the course is to increase mental health knowledge and to provide people with the skills and confidence to recognise signs of mental ill health in order to provide support. As employers, we have a duty of care to our employees. While having a First Aider within the company for physical accidents is a requirement, the aim of the course is to reduce stigma around mental health so that the same care can be extended to mental as well as physical well-being.

The diverse content matter and discussions covered in the course material were at times overwhelming. There are many different types and symptoms of mental illness. We touched on anxiety and depression, to panic attacks, self-harm and suicide. Of course, having attended the course you are not suddenly qualified to diagnose mental health issues, but instead the purpose of the Mental Health First Aider is to help guide the person in distress to the relevant help that they need.

We were provided with a practical action plan to put in place to help a person in a mental health crisis, its mnemonic being ALGEE.

Approach the person, assess and assist with any crisis
Listen and communicate non-judgementally
Give support and information
Encourage the person to seek appropriate professional help
Encourage other supports

Of course, a key part here is communication. Language, tone of voice, attention, body language and of course the biggie, listening, all play a crucial role when considering approaching someone who may need help with a mental health issue.

Having concluded the course, I’ll admit to feeling some trepidation at the responsibility at now being an official Mental Health First Aider – I have a certificate! Trained or not, we would never consider leaving a colleague in distress if they were in physical pain. In the same token, I hope that my training is another step towards creating a supportive environment at AB and making looking after our own and each other’s mental wellbeing an accepted – and expected – part of who we are.

You can find further information on mental health training at https://mhfaengland.org/