What Is A Mental Health First Aider And Do You Need One?

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Did you know that 1 in 4 people in the UK experience some sort of mental health problem each year?

That’s the official statistic.

As a business owner, you have a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of the employees, customers, visitors, and contractors of your organisation. It’s easy to think that if you’ve got physical first aid covered, you’re sorted, but what about mental health?

Referred to as an ‘invisible illness’, it’s hard to spot when someone’s struggling with their mental health.

Having the proper mental health first aid training in place could mean that you can identify symptoms to put things in place before they escalate. Helping you to maintain a happy and healthy workforce and keep people safe from harm.

Mental Health First Aid - What Is It?

You’re never going to fix someone’s mental health with a bandage. In fact, no form of first aid provides a cure. It’s about having the knowledge and skills to identify issues and provide support.

Mental health first aid teaches you how to recognise when someone is experiencing poor mental health and how to provide them with help to make the situation better. Your support might be as simple as a cup of tea and a listening ear, telling them about professional help services they can turn to, or bringing in appropriate immediate help.

What Does A Mental Health First Aider Do?

mental health first aider

As a mental health first aider, you’re the first response to a mental health episode and, therefore, instrumental in how things progress. It’s a lot of responsibility, but the reward of helping people towards a better mental health journey is extremely rewarding.

Here are some things you can expect to do as a mental health first aider…

  • You’ll be the first point of contact for anyone experiencing mental health problems in the workplace.
  • Mental health illness isn’t always easy to spot, but training will help you see the signs and symptoms when someone needs your help and support.
  • Your training will teach you the skills needed to be an active listener to provide immediate support when needed most.
  • An awareness of the professional mental health services available will help you guide people to the right support for them.
  • Mental health training will help you manage extreme situations where heightened emotions are likely, to reduce the risk of harm.

It’s important to remember that mental health first aid is NOT therapy, and you’re NOT there to diagnose or provide clinical support. 

The 5 Main Responsibilities Of A Mental Health First Aider

1. To Keep People Safe

Foremost, your primary responsibility as a mental health first aider is to keep everyone, including yourself, safe from harm.

2. To Be Trustworthy

People can be reluctant to speak about their mental health. If they know they can speak to you in confidence, they’ll be more likely to open up.

3. To Educate

Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health. You can help reduce this by encouraging the use of mindful language in everyday speech (phrases like ‘I’m so OCD’ are commonly used as expressions)

4. To Maintain Boundaries

As a mental health first aider, you’re NOT clinically trained, so don’t attempt to give  any therapy or counselling advice. Instead, signpost professional resources and teams.

5. To Keep Up-To-Date

Keeping your mental health first aid training up-to-date will keep your skills fresh, enabling you to offer people the best possible support you can.

mental health

What Makes A Fantastic Mental Health First Aider?

Being able to help and support people when they’re struggling with their mental health requires you to have a certain set of soft skills. Soft skills are the ones that help you interact with people on a personable level so that you both feel at ease.

A fantastic mental health first aider can…

  • Keep calm even in the face of heightened emotions to de-escalate potentially harmful situations.
  • Show empathy and understanding to make people feel comfortable when they need someone to turn to.
  • Remain non-judgemental to encourage people to open up and fully be able to get things off their chest.
  • Actively listen to what is being said and be fully engaged in the conversation to make the person feel their thoughts, feelings, and emotions have value.
  • Demonstrate compassion to better connect with people and show them you really DO care about what they’re going through.
  • Have the confidence to take the lead in a situation and respond calmly and quickly to prevent things from becoming more serious.

What Do You Learn On A Mental Health First Aid Course?

In just two days, you will gain the confidence, ability and qualification needed to support people struggling with their mental health.

The course will also give you an understanding of the legal requirements for mental health in your workplace, so you can be confident that you have the right policies and procedures in place should you need them.

Once you’ve completed the training, you’ll feel more comfortable, competent and assured when responding to a mental health situation to give appropriate advice and help.

Mental Health Is Just As Important As Physical Health

Does your business need a mental health first aider?

The answer is YES!

With stress, anxiety and depression being some of the largest contributors to sick leave, having the training in place to recognise when someone may need some help and advice could help to keep things running smoothly.

And it’s not just your employees who could need mental health support…

Anyone coming into contact with your organisation could require some mental health help. Having a first aider in place to do that can help to reduce the risk of serious events occurring.

There are in-house and online courses available that make it easy for you to gain the knowledge and skills needed to become a mental health first aider. To find out more, click here…

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