My experience as a new Mental Health First Aider
Today (10 October) marks World Mental Health Day, an international day for global mental health awareness and driving positive change to encourage people to have conversations about mental health and support.
Here at the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), our aim is to create a workplace where mental health is treated just as proportionately as our physical health. We have a team of Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) across the organisation who have undertaken training accredited by Mental Health First Aider England, and are equipped to support our colleagues.
Rachael has recently trained to become part of our MHFA network, and explains a little below on her experience and what it means to them this World Mental Health Day.
Hi, I am Rachael, a 20-something multi-coloured hair enthusiast and neurodivergent person. Who is also (most importantly for this blog) a Mental Health First Aider for the NHSBSA, alongside my role as Optimisation Support.
Spoiler alert!! I'm not new to the MHFA role overall. I trained to become one in March 2019 at my former position where I worked in a Laboratory. However, I am new (ish) to the NHSBSA and have been fulfilling my MHFA role while working from home which is a completely different experience to what I did before.
What's an MHFA?
Mental Health First Aiders complete a course from MHFA England to gain the knowledge and skills to spot signs of people experiencing poor mental health and have the confidence to talk to them and then signpost them to where they can find support (from their workplace or externally). Most importantly, we want to listen. Listening is a big part of this role, and I always tell people I speak to that I’m here so that they can get something off their chest if they’re comfortable doing so.
The core principles of MHFA's are ALGEE:
- Approach, assist, and assess
- Listen non judgmentally
- Give support and information
- Encourage to seek appropriate help
- Encourage to seek support through friends, family, and networks
Previous to the NHSBSA I felt that my MHFA role was not as well utilised in the workplace, instead I largely took a lot of the skills I had learned in training into my personal life instead, I was thankful for having the tools and knowledge to help people around me when I could. Since joining the NHSBSA and learning about their MHFA network and how it supports and helps one another, I immediately emailed a co-chair and asked about how I could get involved in my new role!
Since I initially trained in 2019, I have had some personal developments that gave me a whole new perspective on mental health. My developments affected my mental health and challenged me in ways that without a support network, would have been much harder to overcome. Not to mention without my training as an MHFA, I might not have known where to seek support. In the last two years, I was diagnosed with both dyslexia (sprinkled with dyspraxia) and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and although I have always lived with these, I didn’t know I had them. I was very much always aware that I felt different, but I didn’t know why. Now that I am aware of the why and I have been working through a rollercoaster of emotions as a part of this, I can bring these lived experiences to my role as an MHFA.
So, when I came to work at the NHSBSA I had a whole fresh perspective to bring, I have always been neurodivergent but now I knew, and I had just come off the wheels of the "diagnosis" train.
I originally trained to become an MHFA to learn more about mental health and how I could help others around me who were seeking support for their mental health. As well as raise awareness of different mental health issues among colleagues. I believe that people without knowledge of mental health issues are more likely to ignore or stigmatize it. So, when I get to help raise awareness of issues through the MHFA network, I would like to hope we help give people the knowledge of different mental health issues that they can use in their own lives.
What have I been able to do?
- Talk to people when they reach out
- Learn more about mental health issues
- Help and input my ideas in network meetings
- Join a community of people that have similar goals to my own
So far I've got to help plan events, talk to an array of people, and attend cafes and meetings that really help me understand more about mental health. I have even held a small talk in the monthly work ops meeting around stress, which I loved to do, it got some really good feedback too. I think in the future my goals are to keep helping people in some way or another through my role.
No two conversations with people in my role as an MHFA are the same. These conversations give me to opportunity to empathise and discuss both personal and work-related issues with other colleagues I might never have interacted with, and I hope in some way help them.
If you read all this, thank you and I hope I have shed some light on what my experience as a new MHFA with the NHSBSA has been like.
If you require any support right now please consider visiting Mental Health Helpline for Urgent Help - NHS (www.nhs.uk) or Helplines and listening services - Mind