What roles are the best placed to be Mental Health First Aiders/ First Responders?

This one of what has accidentally become a series of articles. These were generated by enquiries from our clients who have noticed the increased publicity around Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) or as we like to call it Mental health First Responder (MHFR). These enquiries have happened because of our experience and reputation in emotional health, mental health and emotional resilience work.

In case you have not arrived at this article via our blog portal the other articles in this series are as follows

A case study

This case study happened as a result of working with a client who had already started getting their organisation MHFA UK trained and were aiming to have the minimum standard of 10% staff trained as Mental Health First Aiders in their organisation. Their method for choosing the staff was to ask for volunteers of which they got the quantity they needed.

This client is in the recruitment and staffing industry and is on an ambitious organic expansion programme. It is a fast moving target driven environment and they have always been aware that the mental health of their teams is a crucial part of having a healthy organisation. They have branches in many different geographical locations in towns and cities across the UK

These volunteers were not recruited from specific roles or locations because the business wanted to tap into the generosity of spirit and the enthusiasm of the volunteers they had.

Keen to make their staff aware of the steps the business had taken to support them they set up an intranet web page dedicated to mental health and named the employees and gave their numbers out.

Pretty soon the first aiders were taking calls from people who wanted to talk to them. In effect, very quickly, their role was morphing into a form of counselling role. This put them in a challenging position. On the one hand they really wanted to help. On the other they weren’t trained counsellors and they had challenging sales targets of their own to meet, yet their  time was being demanded by staff who were feeling anxious.  Soon the staff who had initially trained as first aiders felt swamped with demand and started to feel quite stressed themselves.

Credit to this organisation, they realised quite quickly that they may have accidentally introduced a structural problem that wasn’t helping. This happened just at the time they started to talk to us about emotional resilience work. After talking to us and thinking about their own structure and their desire to support they came to a decision. They chose to place the responsibility for mental health firmly in the hands of their managers. It meant asking us to design and develop a workshop for them which we call Mental Health for Managers. They came to the view that if a sales manager was only responsible for sales but the responsibility for dealing with other issues was not theirs then their behaviour may change and they may not lead healthy sustainable teams. This meant they had had a mental health aware and trained manager in every location and every team.

Who will staff talk to?

We work with a large regional law firm who have had similar thoughts. They made a decision that they would have an admin team staff member on every floor of their building trained as a Mental Health First Responder and then also put their managers and partners through similar Mental Health for Managers training. Their view was they wanted more than 10% of their workforce aware of mental health. They also knew that some members of staff would not talk to a partner in the law firm about their issues because they felt they were too senior, so they covered all bases. The responsibility for mental health still remained firmly with the partners and the managers.

Questions worth asking yourself before you select roles to fulfill mental health support roles.

  • Is the minimum 10% really sufficient?
  • Do you have geographical issues or multi site issues that may cause you to need more?
  • Are your leaders visibly responsible for their teams mental and emotional health and safety?
  • Once you have the structure you want ,how do you recruit the right people? (to answer this see here)

In conclusion, signing up for initiatives around mental health is a great first step in caring for and valuing your workforce. With a little more thought and maybe talking to people like us, you can get the structure as efficient and supportive as possible and get the right people in the right positions.

To learn more read the other articles in this series or contact info@calmpeople.co.uk.

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