I’ve been so encouraged by the rolling out of Mental Health First Aid training and the move towards valuing it as much as traditional First Aid training.
Workplaces are legally required to have adequate First Aid facilities, equipment, and personnel to keep their employees safe in the event of an accident or injury. However, until recently, we didn’t give the same attention to making sure that Mental Health First Aid is covered too.
Why is that?
When someone cuts their hand, sprains their ankle, or faints at work, we can be reassured that a trained First Aider will be on-hand to provide immediate assistance while emergency services are contacted (if necessary). But if a colleague, an employee, or a customer is having a mental health crisis, would there be someone there who knew what to do?
Mental Health First Aid training is an absolute must-have for all organisations, and personally, I would recommend the training to anyone, because we could encounter someone in crisis at any time, in work or otherwise.
What is Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is defined by MHFA England as:
a training course which teaches people how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue.
The training will teach you the skills to provide immediate assistance if you encounter someone who is experiencing mental distress.
MHFA training will not qualify you as a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counsellor. However, the training will help you to gain an understanding of the signs that someone is struggling with their mental health, how to manage the immediate risk, and how to help someone to access appropriate mental health support.
Why do we need it?
Mental health crises are just as potentially dangerous as physical injuries or accidents. We wouldn’t dream of ignoring someone who needed assistance with a physical injury, we would do whatever we could to provide aid and get them the help they need. So why should mental health problems be treated differently? If someone is experiencing mental distress, it can literally be a life or death situation. Ensuring that first aid is available for these situations is just as crucial as any other first aid is.
Is it just for Mental Health professionals?
Absolutely not. Anyone can access this training, regardless of your job role or what other qualifications you may or may not have.
MHFA is not about treating mental illness, rather it is about intercepting and preventing any immediate risk to life or safety with regards to mental distress, and signposting towards the appropriate professional mental health support. So no, you don’t need to be a mental health professional to learn and practice Mental Health First Aid.
How do I learn it?
Training is offered by MHFA England via various training facilities throughout the country. You can sign up to one of their courses via their website. However, if you are an employee or volunteer, your employer may be willing to pay and arrange for MHFA training within your organisation by bringing a trainer into your place of work, so it is worth having that discussion with your manager.
What if I can’t access the course?
As much as I strongly recommend this course, I understand that it might not be possible for everyone. Nevertheless, if you can’t access the course, I still recommend educating yourself on the fundamentals of MHFA so you have at least the basic skills to offer help in a crisis where a Mental Health First Aider is not present.
At its core, MHFA training essentially comes down to the acronym: ALGEE.
- A: Approach, assess and assist with any crisis (start a conversation, intercept immediate risk to safety)
- L: Listen non-judgementally (active listening, no assumptions or judgements)
- G: Give support and information (reassure, validate their experience)
- E: Encourage appropriate professional help (GP, counsellor, CMHT)
- E: Encourage other support (family, friends, support groups, charities)
This is a very brief overview of this method, but having the basic structure in mind is better than knowing nothing at all. If at all possible, I really do recommend taking the course.
MHFA England also offers free downloadable resources that you can access here.
If you would like further information on MHFA training that isn’t covered on the website, you can contact MHFA England by clicking here.
I hope you have found this FAQ post useful and I would love to hear your thoughts on MHFA or your own experiences with MHFA training. Let me know in the comments.