What is Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)?
Mental Health First Aiders are trained to intervene in situations where colleagues are experiencing mental health problems. This is based on evidence demonstrating the importance of early intervention.
MHFA training dates back 20 years, but has recently gained greater prominence, as employers become increasingly aware of the importance of workplace wellbeing.
For Mel, who is the Recruitment Manager at Tritility, the training has given her skills that stretch beyond her role as a mental health first aider. “It has opened my eyes to the complexity of mental health issues, some of which I wasn’t aware of,” she says. Mel is a skilled problem solver in her day to day life, but she realised that where MHFA is concerned, a different approach is needed. “I Learned that the trick is not to try to find the solution,” she says, “but to listen without judgment, and to direct people to the right support and help.”
Erin is a senior account manager, and has been able to put her people skills to good use when it comes to supporting others. Throughout the upheaval created by COVID-19, she has been proactively checking in with colleagues.
Why is Mental Health First Aid Important?
We spend a great deal of our time at work, and employers can therefore be instrumental in promoting better mental wellbeing.
The training, which is provided by MHFA England, not only teaches attendees how to deal with crises, it also helps them to spot the early warning signs. In addition, it equips them with the resources to refer colleagues to specialist services where appropriate.
Our employees know that whether they’re having a rough day, or experiencing ongoing problems at home or at work, they can talk things through with Mel or Erin in complete confidence.
MHFA Needed “Now More Than Ever”
“The pandemic has increased the need for businesses to adopt this initiative,” says Mel. “Now more than ever, mental health first aiders are so important. It means there is more awareness, friendly places or faces to go to within the company, and we can help when people can’t speak to their line manager.”
Erin agrees. “I think the pandemic has been incredibly difficult for a lot of people,” she said. “Having MHFA within the workplace has ensured we are more educated to support and point people in the right direction of professional support that is available.”
For us, MHFA is just one of the many initiatives aimed at helping our valued staff maintain good mental health. We recently created Ray’s Corner, a mini resource centre in our breakout area, where people can find information on a wide range of topics, from alcohol to stress. This was created in partnership with local charity Washington Mind.