According to Personnel Today, the number of employees reporting mental health worries is up 24% since May 2020, research has revealed from Mental Health Awareness Week.

I qualified as a Mental Health First Aider in July 2019 and the course had a profound affect on me. The Mental Health First Aid course is designed to provide employees and managers with the expertise and confidence to recognise symptoms of mental illness in the workplace. It teaches them how to help workers who are struggling with these problems enabling them to seek assistance.

The main outcomes of the course are to ensure you have:-

  • a thorough understanding of mental health and the factors that influence it
  • practical knowledge of the causes and symptoms of a variety of mental illnesses
  • confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress using the mental health first aid action plan
  • enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening
  • knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to further support - whether through self-help resources, internal support such as EAP, or external sources such as their GP
  • an understanding of how to keep themselves safe while performing their duties
  • a quick reference card for the mental health first aid action plan

Course changes 

The course I attended was a two day face-to-face course delivered across four manageable sessions. The format of the course was through a mix of presentations, group discussions and workshop activities. Each session was built around a Mental Health First Aid action plan.

Many of these courses have become online learning led due to Covid-19 and all providers have adapted their delivery accordingly.

At the end of the course, you receive a certificate to say you are a Mental Health First Aider, a manual to refer to, a quick reference card for the Mental Health First Aid action plan and a workbook with a handy toolkit to help you improve your own mental wellbeing.

Better understanding of mental health

After taking part in the course, I felt like I had a better understanding of mental health and am more knowledgeable about it. I would recommend the course to others because of the excellent teaching and the instructors involved are absolutely amazing. The course itself provided us with the tools and resources to support those who needed help, and it has opened my eyes to many other mental health illnesses that I was previously unaware of.

The course is very intense and thought provoking, it isn't for the faint hearted. It can bring up experiences and events that may have impacted your life. This course isn't so you turn into an overnight counsellor. For me, this course is about giving you the tools and framework to get people the help they need in a very helpful and useful way.

It is important to have people like us in the workplace. It means there are more welcoming areas inside your organisation and improve the wellbeing of the organisation.

Pandemic and beyond

Although employers have made some positive and inspiring efforts to improve their employees' mental health during the pandemic, we're now facing longer-term pressures that companies must brace for, including the consequences of long-Covid and the possibility of a mental health pandemic that could affect our people for years unless we prepare and act quickly.

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has had a direct effect on employee well-being, especially their mental and financial well-being. Even as the majority of workers continue to operate remotely, addressing this and providing the necessary resources is becoming increasingly important for businesses.

Breaking the stigma

For me over the years, it has become easier to have a straightforward discussion about mental health as a result of the training. I urge anyone who is experiencing difficulties to talk with one of a Mental Health First Aider or a co-worker, especially if you are struggling and need help.

Rather than suffering in silence, it is important to speak up and ask for support. We are not here to advise you specifically but rather we offer reassurance, listen non-judgmentally and signpost you to people, organisations and information that might help you further.  We would encourage appropriate professional help, encourage self-help and other support strategies.

Refresher training

Like physical first aid, this training valid for three years. It is recommended that First Aiders and Champions attend a refresher course every three years to renew their skills, update their knowledge of mental health support and practice applying the Mental Health First Aid action plan.

If you are interested in taking part in this type of course, then you can find more information through St John Ambulance, MHFA, Westfield Health and Luminate. 

A growing body of volunteers

So far, this community of mental health volunteers is expanding, with hundreds of thousands of people in England and 4 million people worldwide. We are trained to provide support to others and themselves, whilst striving to improve the mental health and create a society where everyone’s mental health matters.