Mental Health First Aid/ First Response is it right for you?

Mental Health First Aid/ First Response is it right for you?

Given our speciality in emotional resilience it is inevitable that we get asked, quite often, whether we deliver workshops on Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). Our answer is in two parts and goes like this …

Yes we deliver our own version, although we do not call it MHFA, we brand it as MHFR

and

What makes you think that is what you need?

What is Mental Health First Aid/ Mental Health First Response? 

In essence, someone skilled in MHFA/MHFR is alert to the signs of mental ill health and skilled in making a gentle intervention and supporting an individual in finding help and support that works for them.

MHFA England are a not for profit organisation on a mission to train one in ten people in mental health awareness and skills. They have been extremely effective in raising the profile of mental health, especially in the workplace. This means that many employers are beginning to take an interest, which can only be good.

MHFA England have been so successful with their messaging that people can make the mistake that they are the only provider of mental health training and that having one in 10 people trained in mental health awareness and skills is all they need to do. This is why we ask the question “What makes you think that is what you need?”

Challenges with this type of training and initiative for the workplace

As a minimum benchmark for the workplace it is a good idea. The more people who are aware of mental health the better.

Challenge number 1

It can be seen as the end of the mental health journey in the workplace. All the employer needs to do. This can often be the response of those that are led by a health and safety mindset. Those that do the minimum they have to rather than choosing safety as something that improves the workplace and therefore improves the business.

Challenge number 2

It can embed our “close the stable door after the horse has bolted” mindset around mental health. We seem intent on continuing to wait for someone to get ill before we help them. Catching people as they fall. Expressing it in this way may seem counter intuitive. Afterall, if you have trained people in the workplace looking out for signs and talking about mental health you are more likely to spot issues. That assertion is correct with one flaw. Our cultural relationship with mental health is that we do not talk about it until it is too late. We hide the signs and cover up the issues until we feel overwhelmed. We do not ask for help until it is too late.

That means that when the first responder leaps into action having spotted the signs, they are already a long way down the line. 

Statistically when someone gets signed off with stress they will be off for an average of 21.6 days (HSE Work-related stress, anxiety or depression

statistics in Great Britain, 2020 ). More on how this can be avoided later

Challenge number 3 

This is linked to challenge number 3

Workplaces have trained physical first aiders because they assume that the workplace is fundamentally safe but that accidents do happen. The first issue in this area is that most workplaces do not feel mentally fundamentally safe. They are not safe places to discuss mental health. More to the point individuals do not feel able to discuss their mental he;ath. 

The second issue is that it is fair to assert that culturally we are not making the world an emotionally hea;thier place to live. We may want to talk about talking about mental health but the world we are creating is not getting any less stressful. The real point of this challenge is that if we continue to simply catch those that fall we will get busier and busier. MHFR is a start but only a start.

Challenge number 4  

This leads on from challenge number 3.

Our mental health support services are inadequate (see this article on the BBC website from Dec 2019) they are already under pressure. Also, since mental health problems are often linked to environment and financial issues not everyone can afford a therapist thus the NHS is under strain and we are going to build an army of people spotting and highlighting issues and signposting to support services. It is inevitable that a good proportion will go to the NHS. If this initiative is successful the NHS mental health support services will be overwhelmed.

There is nothing worse than knowing you need mental health help and having to wait a long time for it. That becomes part of the problem

Does this make having MHFR or MHFA in the workplace wrong? 

No is it a great first step in a mental health and wellbeing strategy but it is not the last or only step.

That is why we work on strategy as well as delivery with our partners.

A typical plan for employers we work with is so assess their whole wrap around benefits package and look at EAPs as well as MHFR with a view to moving towards upskilling the workforce in awareness, selfcare healthy behaviours and developing the skills and strategies on a personal level we will all need

In doing that we provide the whole range of support needed from MHRF training to emotional resilience workshops to emotional health assessment and development tech 

That means you can build a long term plan for a mentally healthy emotionally resilient workforce and fit it to your budget, business situation and geography.

That’s why our clients love us.

If you want to talk about partnering with us to support parts of your strategy or to help you shape your plans email julian@calmpeople.co.uk.

If this article has convinced you that you are doing the right thing in implementing MHFA/MHFR training in your workplace, that is great. It may help you to read this article here, that talks about how to select the right people to be your mental health first responders.

Thank you for visiting our site and for reading this.

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