Celebrating Mental Health First Aid

The terms ‘mental health’ and ‘mental illness’ have become a part of everyday vocabulary.

Amidst the difficulties people have faced, overcome, or are still facing; there are many stories of how people have supported each other and made a difference. MHFA has been part of this.

Introduction

At the recent MHFAider Networking group we used the last session of 2020 to take time to reflect on our role.

    The challenges we have faced

    Everybody’s experience of the pandemic is different. The impact on each of us will be an outcome of our unique mix of skills, awareness and situation. However, some commonalities were identified.

    • Adjusting to new ways of working.  This may have been working from home, facing risk in a front-line role, or working in new ways to reduce risk through social distancing.
    • Adjusting to different ways of living.  This included our ability to see those we love, restrictions on wider social interaction, the activities we can do and places we can go.
    • Illness and grieving. Many people experienced the reality of COVID-19 by becoming ill themselves, looking after others, or grieving the loss of those they care about.
    • Living with uncertainty.  A major challenge has been the uncertainty of how things will evolve, what’ll happen next, and how we will move through and out of the pandemic.

     

    Over time for many, many people living in this way has seriously depleted the resources that contribute to overall wellbeing.

        How we have contributed as MHFAiders

        The role of a MHFAider is twofold:

        • Providing Mental Health First Aid
        • Raising awareness of mental ill health to reduce stigma and discrimination

         

        2020 has seen an increased need for the support given through MHFA. It has also seen a dramatic increase in conversations about mental health and we have been part of this. As a group many ideas and stories were shared about what they had done and how they had made a difference.

         

        • Sharing personal stories.  This was particularly valuable when by senior leaders showing their vulnerability.  Also, people explaining why they had wanted to become MHFAiders.
        • Educating people to increase awareness. This included on particular areas eg. LGBTQ+, men’s health, or the menopause, recognising that overall mental health is influenced in many ways.
        • Communicating clearly the role of a MHFAider. This encouraged people to be comfortable to approach and speak to them.
        • Specific wellbeing initiatives. Many innovative ways to connect with people, recognising different wants and needs.
        • Making mental health part of larger business conversations including setting up steering groups and appointing wellbeing ambassadors.
        • Increased recognition of self-care.  That it is important to look after ourselves, to be able to support others.
        • Using MHFA skills in all areas of life.  It is not just about the workplace.

          Reasons to celebrate

          My message to all MHFAiders: Faced with the scale of mental ill health, the difficulties many people are facing, and the fact that there is a long way to go, it is easy to lose sight of the difference you can and have made.

          Every time you have a supportive, non-judgmental conversation with someone you are making a difference.

          Every time you do something, however large or small, to contribute to raising wider awareness of mental health and reduce the associated stigma and discrimination, you are making a difference.

          To all Mental Health First Aiders – know that you make a positive difference!

          Contact us for details

          Protea Solutions provides a range of training options to support employee mental health including Mental Health First Aid courses accredited by MHFA England. These are offered as both public open courses and run within organisations. Contact us to find out how we can help you support your employees or contact us if you would like to find out more information and join our next MHFA Networking and Support Group.

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