So, earlier this week I posted the first part of an interview with Little Lost Sometimes (please see “Stop Defining Yourself By Medical Terms” – The Story Of Little Lost Sometimes for her frank story). She also does Mental Health First Aid, which is a great idea to help support people with mental health issues. I thought that it was a fascinating idea. There’s often a medical first aid staff member at work, so why not someone who supports mental health issues? Here she is taking about and answering some questions on the subject.
Could you please describe what Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) entails?
MHFA is first aid for the less physical problems. It teaches you how to provide the initial help in an emergency, and offer an ear/signpost for the less immediate needs.
Where did you first hear about it?
My workplace has embraced the programme. One lady in particular has been instrumental in getting it going here, but many of the other offices have also taken it up. An email went out asking if anyone as interested and I was.
How have you found it? Have you found people to be receptive of it?
In practice for me it’s 99% learning to listen, and look out for others. It takes nothing to say “You seem really withdrawn today. Is everything OK?” or “You’ve not been your usual self lately, anything I can help with?” I am free for a chat anytime, about most anything. I get tapped on IM, and all sorts of random times. People are generally really positive about it. Often they want to know where to go for support for particular situations (bereavements, cancer support, childcare issues), or just vent after a stressful time. I spend maybe an hour a week on it, but there are lots of us around, so collectively we have a big impact.
Have you noticed any major benefits from it, from either yourself or from other people?
If everyone had a good support system, there will be less sick days, more productivity, more creativity, and generally a better environment. I think people have really thought about that, and we’re making headway demystifying a lot of topics around mental health. In my experience it’s really helped us all realise that we do have a support system through work, and it is OK to use it. We’re far more lenient with each other, and much more willing to honestly answer “How are you?”.
Would you advocate it other people and companies looking to invest in it?
A thousand times yes! It is for anyone that comes into any sort of contact with anyone ever. You aren’t learning to be a therapist, or diagnostician. Just learning to listen to others is such a great life skill. Knowing how to help get someone into a safe pair of hands when everything goes wrong can’t be a bad thing. Part of the problem with non-led support groups is often people come at it with the attitude of “I’m depressed, so I *know* depression” you don’t, you know *your* depression. Courses also tend to attract those that have experience themselves, or through a loved one, and that can bring a lot of un-open attitudes. This really makes it easy to stop trying to categorise, and start actually supporting.
Finally, could you summarise your experiences and feelings about MHFA up please?
This course highlights the many many different ways things can affect people, and how you can be a help. I can see its benefit in my work-life, and personal life. So many ways to support are so easy, but we just don’t do them because it feels weird. If we can move past the feeling, and know it’s the right thing to do, we just might make a positive difference in our worlds.
Thanks for Little Lost Sometimes for talking about this. If you’d like to learn more about Mental Health First Aid then please go to http://mhfaengland.org/ for more information.
If you’d like to talk to me further, please drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ve created a little secluded closed support group on Facebook, also called The Order Of The Dog. It’s not just for people with mental health issues but it’s also there to help offer support to people who want to learn more and people who know sufferers. We’re there to help listen and offer a shoulder for anyone who needs it.