The benefits of mental health first aid training
By Joanna Lenham, SCIE Practice Development Manager
I did my Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training in the very lovely setting of Aylesford Priory in September 2019. The course was two full days, looking at mental health and the MHFA role in general, and more specifically at a range of conditions including depression and anxiety.
So why did I decide to do this training? It was partly because it seemed like a good opportunity to brush up on my knowledge of mental health conditions and how to support people, and because we were looking to strengthen the mental health support we could provide as an organisation. But it’s also something that is very close to me personally. One of my parents was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a severe breakdown when I was 10 years old, so I’ve effectively lived alongside a mental health condition and seen the impact that it can have for most of my life.
Over the years I’ve seen relatives, close friends and work colleagues struggle with their mental health, and as a Local Authority team manager had to support staff to manage mental health conditions in an often stressful setting. I haven’t needed to actively provide mental health first aid since completing the training course, but it reminded me of the importance of being alert to the possibility, looking out for signs and reaching out to people if they seem to be struggling.
At the heart of the MHFA role is care for one another. Perhaps it’s the social worker in me, but I honestly believe that there is nothing more important than each of us feeling heard and seen and supported. We would all show kindness and empathy for someone with a physical condition and it’s so important that we do the same here. And of course we all have days and weeks when we don’t feel so good mentally, whether or not we’ve got an existing condition, and at those times the MHFA’s are here to offer support and a listening ear to anyone within my organisation.