What Is the Role of a Mental Health First Aider?

mental health first aider talking to coworker

The fact that you are reading this article means that you, like many others, are increasingly aware of the prevalence of mental health and are potentially interested in becoming a mental health first aider. 

Mental health plays a role in the workplace and throughout our wider society. Through education and training, you can gain the tools to support individuals and organisations in recognising the signs and symptoms of mental health and developing approaches to mitigate or minimise its impact. 

Increasing numbers of people throughout the UK are being trained as Mental Health First Aiders for the reasons above. The following article provides an insight into the role and the significant benefits it can have both personally and for an organisation.

In the article, we’ll walk you through the following; 

  • Why understanding mental health matters 
  • What a mental health first aider is 
  • What a mental health first aider does
  • Mental Health first aider responsibilities
  • How to become a mental health first aider 
  • Who can become a mental health first aider

Why Understanding Mental Health Matters

It’s estimated that 1 in 6 people suffer from a mental health issue every single week. This staggering statistic alone highlights the importance of taking the time to understand mental health. 

Mental health can affect anyone at any time in their life, anxiety, depression, and stress are some of the common themes and early signs that someone may be struggling.

Many factors can individually or collectively contribute to a decline in mental health; biological, social, psychological, and environmental factors each play a part. Therefore, we must have a range of the practical tools and techniques to help us adapt, to the changes and challenges of everyday life.

Through understanding mental health, you can take steps to improve your own mental health and support others. When someone has good mental health, they can 

  • Fully enjoy life 
  • Set goals and feel fulfilled 
  • Take steps to ‘bounce back’ after a knockback
  • Build and maintain healthy relationships at work and in their personal lives

By talking about mental health and training employees to be mental health first aiders, businesses can help lessen the stigma that unfortunately still surrounds mental health.

What is a Mental Health First Aider?

A mental health first aider, or MHFA for short, is a person to whom people can turn when struggling with emotional distress. 

Within the workplace, managers can sometimes appear busy, and employees can be reluctant and/or unwilling to talk to someone in authority about their troubles. The MHFA can therefore be a vital link, a point of contact to whom people can turn.

Trained mental health first aiders are not qualified to be counsellors or therapists. Their purpose is to support other employers and offer a listening ear, not provide any sort of clinical diagnosis. 

What Does a Mental Health First Aider Do? 

Mental health first aiders are essentially the go-to point of contact when an employee struggles with their mental health. The first aider is trained to offer support, guidance and practical solutions. 

It’s important to note that mental health first aiders shouldn’t be used as a replacement or a ‘quick fix’ treatment for mental health struggles. The first aiders can help identify symptoms and causes and suggest practical solutions, including therapy from a licensed professional.

Mental health first aiders also act as advocates for mental health. They can be a significant influence with regard to implementing positive change in how people view mental health and boost awareness that mental wellbeing is equally important as physical wellbeing.

Mental Health First Aiders Responsibilities

Like any role, mental health first aiders have responsibilities. Depending on the mental health first aid course taken and the guidance within your own organisation, the role and responsibilities. 

Below is an overview of the primary responsibilities. 

  1. Look after yourself first

Supporting other people with their mental struggles can be draining. So the first responsibility is to look after yourself. First aiders should only perform their duties if they themselves feel fully safe and well. 

  1. Look out for signs someone is struggling

Through the training, participants will be advised on the signs to look for that could point toward someone struggling with their mental health. Having recognised the signs, the MHFA must act on them appropriately. 

  1. Keep discussions confidential unless there are major concerns

Trust is essential in this type of role. Therefore, first aiders must keep anything discussed under strict confidentiality and let their colleague know that is the case. The only exception is if there are any major concerns or potential risks to a person’s life.

  1. Listen without judgement

Many people who struggle with mental health just need to be listened to. It’s important not to judge that person, and a designated MHFA must not negatively change how they act around people who have confided in them. 

  1. Know how to start the conversation

When mental health first aiders are first implemented in the workplace, people may be reluctant to come forward, and there may not be many people that actively seek out help and support. The first aider should remain vigilant, keep an eye out for tell-tale signs and confidently start the conversation about how they are feeling. 

How to Become a Mental Health First Aider 

We have a variety of courses to support those people interested in becoming an advocate for mental health and help to support colleagues;

Mental Health Champions

This 1-day wellbeing course is perfect for supervisors, managers and business owners. The course will cover how to spot signs of someone struggling and how to support your team and workforce through actionable steps effectively.

To be a qualified Mental Health First Aider, you will be required to undertake the 2-day MHFA England accredited training.

Mental Health Awareness

This half a day course provides a general overview and understanding of mental health. The 4-hour workshop will boost confidence and knowledge when trying to help someone struggling. 

Mental Health First Aid 

This MHFA England accredited 2-day course will give participants knowledge on different mental health conditions, signs to look out for, and how to provide practical advice in the workplace.

Our courses will help individuals understand and look after their own mental health and provide the practical tools to adapt when in need.

Who Can Become a Mental Health First Aider? 

Anyone with a genuine interest in learning about mental health can attend a mental health course. MEFA England aims to train 1 in 10 of the population to be mental health first aiders

For more information on our wellbeing courses, contact the WYMS team today.

(e) info@wyms.co.uk

(t) 01484 711 462

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