Thursday, February 29, 2024

Mark Lyttleton: Introduction to Mental Health First Aid

Angel investor Mark Lyttleton has a special interest in workplace support structures for mental health services. This article will look at mental health first aid, outlining the provisions employers can put in place to increase understanding of mental health problems, remove stigma and protect the mental health and wellbeing of employees.

Just as we must maintain physical fitness, we also must care for our mental health and wellbeing. Mental health problems can strike at any time, affecting people from all walks of life.

Although things are slowly improving, a great deal of stigma still lingers in many circles surrounding the topic of mental ill-health. On the whole, society continues to fail to prioritise mental wellbeing in the same way that it does physical health.

Mental health first aiders undertake special training to help them to identify and assist colleagues who could potentially be experiencing a mental health issue. They are not trained therapists, but they learn the practical skills necessary to listen to someone experiencing a mental health problem, reassuring and responding to them even during a crisis situation. In fact, with the right training in place, mental health first aiders can actually prevent these crises arising in the first place.

Mental health first aid training teaches participants the warning signs of mental ill-health, helping them to develop the confidence and skills necessary to support an individual experiencing issues while also keeping themselves safe. Participants also learn how to empower individuals to access the support they may need for recovery or to manage their symptoms successfully.

Although mental health continues to be a taboo subject in many arenas, society is gradually becoming more open about the subject than it once was. Forward-thinking organisations are seeking to support workers in this regard, recognising the correlation between ensuring employees are happy and well-cared for and staff retention and workplace productivity.

By appointing and training mental health first aiders, businesses provide employees with a first point of contact, providing colleagues with support and guidance and someone to talk to if they find they are struggling. A mental health first aider is also an important advocate for mental health, helping to reduce stigma and enact positive change.

Depending on the extent of their training, mental health first aiders may undertake a wide range of different activities. Individuals who have successfully completed Level 1 Awareness of First Aid for Mental Health training can discuss mental health issues with employees, providing basic advice and pointing them towards further resources to help if necessary.

Individuals with Level 2 First Aid for Mental Health training typically take on a more formal role, supporting colleagues who are experiencing challenges and connecting them with treatment and further support. They may also be expected to look out for signs that a colleague is experiencing a mental health issue, forwarding concerns to management and intervening where appropriate.

Meanwhile, employees who undertake Level 3 Supervising First Aid for Mental Health training may adopt all of the responsibilities outlined above, while also co-ordinating mental health first aiders in the workplace; identifying treatment pathways for colleagues; and affecting organisational change to support employees and help prevent mental health problems arising in the first place.

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