As people in the helping profession, it is highly likely that you have been faced with situations involving mental ill health… But if you were asked to define mental health, what would you reply?
Many of us have heard or used the terms; stressed, OCD, Anxiety, schizophrenia for example, but do we really know enough about #MentalHealth? And more importantly, would we be able to recognise the symptoms of mental ill health and feel confident in managing such situations?
Generally, people can explain what physical first aid is… but there are also first aid courses available for mental health…
Mental Health First Aid courses are recognised in 25 countries, and the overall purpose of the courses are to offer an equivalent to physical first aid. You can find out more by reading our interview with the CEO Poppy Jaman, and of course on the MHFA website, which states:
‘We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Mental ill health can strike at any time and can affect people from all walks of life. We know that 1 in 4 British adults will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives.’
I attended the Mental Health First Aid two-day adult course in London at the end of last month… And here are my thoughts:
If you do a Mental Health First Aid course, it is likely that after the two days you will recognise early signs of mental health issues, that you will feel confident in approaching somebody experiencing a mental health issue, and be able to provide first aid, using the models that are learnt on the course.
Various models and statistics are shared throughout the two days, and it is one specific model that is reinforced because it offers a systematic, straightforward way to deal with somebody showing signs of mental ill health, be it somebody at your work, one of your clients or a loved one.
If you are an experienced therapist, then you will be adept at dealing with sensitive issues, and aware that much dis-ease is a result of something underlying… some of you may be qualified in a talking therapy too. This course strengthens existing knowledge, reminds us that we also need to demonstrate self-care in a helping profession, and provides up-to-date statistics, as well as offering an easily applied action plan.
This Action Plan will enable you to help prevent someone from hurting themselves or others, help stop a mental health issue from getting worse, help someone recover faster and guide someone towards the right support. And whilst you are likely to have an idea of what the condition a person has, it is not the role of a Mental Health First Aider to provide a diagnosis. All of this is made clear during the course.
If you have your own business or practice, it is certainly worth your receptionist or other staff going on the course too, and for any new practitioners or students, this course will support your learning. On the days, I attended there were a variety of people, working in different fields; from the construction industry to business psychology, those attending from corporations, charities, medical professionals and those for personal reasons.
Below is a statement from a past attendee;
“Gaining more up-to-date knowledge about mental health has given me more confidence in myself. The information given and discussed has certainly made me look at how I can improve my practice to best support others… I have personally benefited from the training and will continue to look at changes that can be made when meeting with my line manager”
The above is taken from the following paper which has a range of quotes from people who have trained as Youth MHFAiders (see p16-19) – Borrill, J. & Kuczynska, P., Evaluation of Youth Mental Health First Aid Training in the North East of England. University of Westminster (December 2013)
My experience of the two-day course:
The experienced and trained instructor delivered content pretty much to the book, referring to a thick manual that is supplied as part of the course fee. Alex, was the facilitator for the course I attended; she was professional and experienced (including working in Health and Safety, training, and as a qualified yoga instructor). Alex clearly had sound knowledge of the course content and her delivery was calm and engaging… she ensured that there was variety in group set-up, level of physical activity and allowed all members to ask questions and share experiences… however, this course is not intended to be therapeutic, and Alex managed the group delicately if the subject steered off track, bringing it back to the material and the overall course purpose.
Day 1 was quite intense content wise, and the atmosphere in the room was dense at points, but this is expected for some of the subject matters dealt with, including depression, and suicide.
Day 2 included more case study discussion in groups, and interesting practical sessions to break-up the talking, as well as revisiting and discussing any parked questions from over the period of two days.
The best thing about the course was that it highlighted some areas of mental health that are not often discussed or considered, and it also shatters myths surrounding certain conditions. The video content and work booklet were effective ways to break-up the listening and learning sections, and the group work created a space for shared views. Alex is very approachable, yet stuck to timings and content, which allowed for fluid learning.
The only thing that I would change about my experience on the course, would be to have had two ten minute slots of actual stretches, and focused breathing… to allow any stiffness to dissipate… but I understand that due to the nature of the timed course, and the limited space this isn’t always easiest, and I believe that Alex balanced the days very well overall.
Mental ill health can affect our clients, our loved ones or indeed ourself; so the more awareness on the subject, the better for everybody’s overall health and wellbeing. I am really pleased I went on the course, even though I am trained in various modalities, as well as having personal experiences of mental ill health with loved ones… so I certainly recommend the course for other therapists too.
For more information on any of Mental Health First Aid courses, visit their website: http://www.mhfaengland.org