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How confident are you talking about mental health?

June 15, 2023

It’s June and the sun’s out so that can only mean one thing – it’s exam season! If your household is in the middle of exams, I hope they are going smoothly and the end is in sight.

I’ve often thought how useful a GCSE in life skills would’ve been. Ya’ know, all that stuff you really need in life like tax and pensions, car maintenance, consumer rights and First Aid.

I did my first First Aid training when my children were small, hastened by the realisation that their little lives were in my hands. Thankfully I’ve not had to deal with anything needing more than an icepack or a couple of stitches at A&E.

So what’s the relevance of First Aid to being happy and successful at work?

The first aid that’s in demand in our changing workplaces

Well, whilst I can only recall a couple of incidents at work when I needed my physical first aid skills, I’ve had many conversations with people struggling with their mental health or work-related stress. Since 1 in 6 working-age adults have symptoms associated with poor mental health, I’m guessing you might have had similar conversations too. 

Having the skill and knowledge to respond competently and compassionately to someone experiencing a mental health crisis could be life-changing for them. Did you know that you can learn how to do that by attending Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training?

MHFA England have already trained 1 in 45 adults in England and I’m proud to say I’m now one of them. I even have a lanyard to prove it!

Changing the conversation around mental health

The mission is to train 1 in 10 people as MHFAiders® to help create a society where everyone can talk freely about mental health and seek support when they need it.

Could you be part of that crusade? An increasing number of employers are training employees to act as first line support. 

Please consider talking to the health, safety and wellbeing lead at your workplace to see whether they already offer this training and if not, whether they’d think about it. Challenging stigmas and creating more open, understanding and inclusive organisations makes work a happier and healthier place for us all.

The business case is compelling. According to research by Deloitte, poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45bn each year through reduced productivity and increased absenteeism, presenteeism and staff turnover. 

However, for each £1 spent on mental health interventions, employers get a five-fold return on their investment and earlier interventions like culture change and education offer a higher return than funding specialist support for an individual once they are struggling.

Supporting the people you care about

The MHFAider® course covers situations from stress, anxiety and depression to self-harm, psychosis and suicide prevention. It emphasises self-care, especially looking after yourself when you’ve helped someone else. 

The skills are just as applicable outside work and individuals are welcome to get trained so you’re better equipped to help family, friends and neighbours.

Like physical first aid, you learn a mnemonic👇🏻 for the steps to shape a conversation. Approaching the subject felt particularly hard at first so we practised that a lot. We also watched and practised how to deal with specific scenarios including panic attacks and suicidal thoughts.

The ALGEE action plan (not necessarily followed in a fixed order):

  • Approach, assess, and assist with any crisis
  • Listen non-judgementally
  • Give support and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage other supports

Unlike physical first aid, it’s not always obvious when someone is struggling with their mental health but I now feel more likely to recognise the signs and more informed to handle a conversation without the worry that I might be making the situation worse.

In addition to classroom courses (I did mine with Mind and it was excellent), there are online materials like the interactive stress container to improve literacy around mental health so you can have check-in chats and support people through common situations from hearing bad news to coping with those exam pressures

I hope you’ll take a look.

PS. If my email has raised concerns about your own or others’ mental health, you can call Samaritans on 116 123 or text SHOUT to 85258. They help with all sorts of challenges from loneliness and relationships to self-harm and grief. If you or someone else require immediate help, call 999.

Prevention is better than cure. I run a 6 week programme which builds your foundation of mental fitness by strengthening three critical mental muscles. If you’d like to find out more, visit my website or book a no-obligation chat with me.

About me

I’m Celia Clark. I’m a career development coach based in the dreaming spires of Oxford. I help you think clearly about your job, in all its ups and downs, so you can be happy and successful in your work.

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