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The Role of a Mental Health First Aider

14 October 2021

The World Mental Health Foundation first launched World Mental Health Day in 1992. In 2021 the importance of positive mental health and well-being is recognised and proactively supported across all cultures, age groups and industries.

This year World Mental Health Day is on 10th October 2021, providing the global community with an opportunity to raise awareness, present concerns, call for action and advocate for solutions.

Members of the Ouch team have been discussing the importance of a clear and unambiguous understanding of the role of mental health first aiders in the workplace. We have all successfully completed this training and have all had occasions where we have used our essential skills to help and support others.

So, what exactly is the role of a mental health first aider?

There are many sources of help and information about mental health issues, but we believe Mental Health First Aid England provide excellent guidance and support for those wishing to create a clear and manageable set of guidelines for their workplace mental health first aiders.

Mental Health First Aiders are trained to:

  • Spot the early signs and symptoms of mental ill health
  • Start a supportive conversation with a colleague who may be experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress
  • Listen to the person non-judgementally
  • Assess the risk of suicide or self-harm
  • Encourage the person to access appropriate professional support or self-help strategies. This might include encouraging access to internal support systems such as EAPs or in-house counselling services
  • Escalate to the appropriate emergency services, if necessary
  • Maintain confidentiality as appropriate
  • Protect themselves while performing their role

Being a mental health first aider is not for everyone, and it’s important that those who are put forward or volunteer, both fully understand what it entails and are able to complete the role in line with their organisation’s policies and procedures.

The Dorset Chamber have been forward thinking in their approach to mental health and I am proud to be one of the GU6 Champions. This initiative has been organised to support Dorset business leaders, providing a confidential peer support network where mental health may be affected. All the GU6 Champions are qualified mental health first aiders and can offer support and relevant signposting where appropriate.

On occasions people have asked me about how I approach being a mental health first aider and if I have any advice about the role. I believe you need to look after, and invest in, your own mental health because that way you will be best equipped to support others if the need arises.

I also think that ideally, mental health first aiders would also benefit from this list of skills and character traits:

  • Being approachable with a good listening ear, recognising the value of supportive silence and having a friendly warm cup of tea or coffee handy
  • Having a chatty personality complete with empathy and a focus on the present
  • Being supportive without taking someone’s problems on to your shoulders
  • Recognising when you need support yourself to keep well
  • Establish boundaries and recognise you cannot fix everything and that you are not a counsellor
  • Being keen to learn and refresh your skills and knowledge on mental health, promote and raise awareness and reduce stigma

So as World Mental Health Day arrives and leaves us, we will have read articles, seen posts on social media and started conversations. But what will you do next?

Here at Ouch we deliver the whole range of Mental Health First Aid England courses as well as offering a range of bespoke training so if we can help your organisation, please get in touch and start the conversation.

Su Turner

Ouch Training Team 7 October 2021

01202 880999