MHFA MHFR Finding The Right People With The Right Motivation

MHFA MHFR Finding The Right People With The Right Motivation

If you are going to invest in any type of Mental Health First Aid programme for your workplace read this first.

As mental health in the workplace moves higher and higher up the agenda in businesses and more and more organisations consider setting up Mental Health First Aid type initiatives our advice is being sought. One of the most common questions we get asked is this… 

“How do I identify and select the right people to fill  Mental Health First Aid or Mental Health First Response positions?


Through the initiative that is being led by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) more and more businesses are awakening to the idea of having individuals in their businesses with the skill set trained to spot possible mental health issues and gude the individuals involved to get the right help.

This is something we have been delivering workshops on for many years and we brand ours as Mental Health First Responders (MHFR).It is seen by our clients as an important first step in developing a culture around mental health in the workplace that is open, honest and supportive. The same culture you would hope exists around physical health. The majority of the clients we work with see this as the first step but not the last. If it is the only step a business or organisation takes then the only commitment they are making is to try and catch their employees as they fall. Most of our clients have a plan to start here and then build in ways of supporting their teams in developing the skills, tactics and strategies to build and maintain their own resilience thus building a culture of prevention rather than cure when crisis hits.

First step or not, the role of MHFR is important and comes with responsibilities so picking the right people for the role is important. Clearly you wish people to volunteer but being keen is not always enough. Also people can have awide variety of motivations for applying for the MHFR role. Exploring these is important.

Here at Calm People we talk to our clients about the qualities they want to look out for and also a few of the qualities they may wish to avoid.

These are what we help our clients screen for

Active listening

Truly listening to someone helps them feel valued. Truly listening to someone who is suffering with their mental health helps them feel valued, supported and safe. It sounds obvious and simple enough but in these busy times it is a skill many of us underuse.


When a colleague is challenged with their mental health sympathy is unlikely to to cut it. In fact it could be damaging. An individual, however, who can shift themselves out of their perspective and look at things from another’s has a skill that is to be valued.

Non Judgemental Attitude

From an early age, as humans, we learn to judge. Amongst other things it is one of the ways we protect ourselves. Judgment can evoke shame and there is enough stigma surrounding mental health without our first responders increasing it. If I think you will judge me I will not open up and talk to you.

Attitude towards Mental Health

The attitudes we have can run deep and they are vitally important in Mental Health First Response which is why we measure them in two ways. There are many people who present as essentially tolerant but thorough their personal experience or upbringing have a different attitude when it comes to mental health.

Relationship with Feelings

This is a hugely important area. Our relationship with feelings of vulnerability is complex. Many have been brought up to believe that feelings are not to be talked about and that vulnerability is not to be admitted to. If we don’t have a good relationship with our own vulnerability we are better able to support those that are challenged with theirs.

Those are the 5 key areas that we consider and would want an individual to score well in. There are also 3 areas that we look at that we consider can present a challenge to someone being natural fir for the role of mental health first responder.


Rescuers need projects and people to fix. They get their needs met by fixing other people’s problems. Someone with a strong need to rescue is likely to get too involved, create issues with dependency and cause more problems than they assist with. 


The MHFR role is not a counselling role. It is really important that applicants understand that and are able to operate healthy boundaries between their role and supporting someone in a mental health crisis. Applicants that think this is a route into being the workplace counsellor need to go to university and train to be a counsellor.


Finally we consider an applicant’s focus in their current role MHFR role is an additional responsibility and does not replace the role they were recruited and are paid for. We need to be aware of team members who are likely to become distracted from their core role. 

How to screen for these qualities

Now you  have read this you could simply list them and ask candidates to self score themselves against these descriptions. You could also interview each candidate and ask the questions around each of these areas. Both those methods have merits and they also come with challenges around time and self scoring honesty.

What we do for our clients

We have developed a brief MHFR role screening assessment. It consists of 32 questions and a scoring system. That’s 4 questions for each area we look at. The scores can be plotted on a graph giving a visual profile of the candidate. The total scores can be used to rank the candidates if you have a need to set a cut off point.

Additionally we have added 4 open questions for candidates to complete giving you more information.

This assessment can be completed by a candidate and submitted to you for scoring and used in conjunction with what you know about the candidate to help you select the right candidates for the role.

Simple and effective.

We license that out to organisations for £750.00

If you are thinking about spending money on MHFR training then that extra investment can help you make sure you get the best from your investment.

To purchase that screening assessment or to ask questions about that or any of the other workshops we offer email


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