Mental Health First Aid

mental health first aidI am the Practice Manager for Harold Stock & Co Solicitors, a general practice with offices in East Manchester and Stockport. I have worked within the legal profession since the age of 17 and have made my way up through the ranks from Office Junior, Secretary, Office Manager and now to Practice Manager.

Earlier this week, I attended a two day first aid course. Nothing unusual about that I hear you say! However, this was no ordinary first aid course, this was a mental health first aid course. The course provided by Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA) is designed to provide professionals and the general public with the tools required to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues, to provide help on a first aid basis and to guide others in the right direction towards support.

There has been a huge push to remove the stigma of mental health and we know that 1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental health issue within their lifetime. The campaigning of organisations such as Mind and Re-Think have definitely raised the awareness levels amongst the general public but I wonder how many of us would actually know what to do when faced with someone suffering from a mental health crisis or recognise that a person’s mental health is starting to deteriorate.

Imagine the difference it would make if every workplace had a trained mental health first aider as well as a physical health first aider.

I must confess, I do have some experience of mental health issues. In addition to the day job, I am also a Trustee of The Anthony Seddon Fund, a mental health charity based in Ashton-under-Lyne covering the Tameside and Glossop areas.

Three years, I lost my brother to suicide. He was 30 years old and had suffered from poor mental health since the age of 18. He had a diagnosis of bi-polar. As a family, we were determined that Anthony’s death would not be in vain and we set up the fund initially to provide funding to Tameside, Oldham and Glossop Mind to enable them to run mental health awareness sessions in local high schools. The charity has grown over the last few years and we now provide a wealth of activities not only to those suffering from mental health issues but also to their carers and loved ones. For more information on the services we offer, please take a look at our website, www.theanthonyseddonfund.org

I remember being gripped by a fear of saying the wrong thing to Anthony during one of his first psychotic episodes. “What if I said the wrong thing and made him worse?” I think this is a fear within many of us, the fear that would make us cross the road, move train carriages, etc if faced with someone in a mental health crisis. Imagine if we were all equipped with the basic first aid knowledge to be able to deal with these situations in much the same way as we are when someone is injured, etc.

From a professional point of view, mental health issues cost businesses a lot of money through sick days, low production levels, etc. If you had members of staff trained to recognise the early warning signs that a person’s mental health may be beginning to deteriorate, you could reduce the impact both upon the individual and your business by allowing for early intervention. I would highly recommend that at least one member of your staff attends the training course.

MHFA run courses throughout England and can also provide on-site training for larger organisations. Take a look at their website for further information on the course content and upcoming course dates.

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4 thoughts on “Mental Health First Aid

  • Martyn
    June 15, 2016 at 2:08 pm
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    Thank you Alex for an incredible post. The MHFA course sounds essential for every law firm. We all know how pervasive mental issues are, and we really can’t ignore just how essential it is for a workplace to have a strategy in place to support employees with mental health problems. So sorry to hear about your brother – having lost a brother also due to poor mental health, I know how indescribably devastating this is. Thanks also for being brave and sharing this with us.

    Reply
  • PaulW
    June 16, 2016 at 9:13 am
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    Hi Alex, thank you for your post and sharing you experience with us. I agree, having seen first hand how mental stress and issues can be very disruptive and damaging in a workplace situation. A mental health issue, a crisis and call for help for the individual, can result in drink and possibly drug related problems at work as the behaviour of the individual becomes more and more extreme as they try to cope. Early non critical but strong and positive engagement with the individual is very important I think. Do you have knowledge of a form of policy or procedure that practices could adapt to help them with this issue? Something like a Health, Wellbeing, Drink and Drug (Abuse) Policy? As we do not deal with this type of situation on a day to day basis having a blueprint in the form of an adopted policy for all in the practice would be very helpful – at least in the initial stages of trying to deal with the situation.

    Reply
    • AlexNewman
      June 21, 2016 at 2:30 pm
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      Hi Paul, thank you for your comments. I am not aware of a policy and must admit that my own policy in use at present doesn’t deal with mental health in any great detail. This is something I am going to look to incorporate when the policy is updated over the next couple of months. I will keep you posted.

      In the meantime, Centre for Mental Health seem to have some useful information and resources on their website as do Mind and Time to Change. Best Wishes, Alex.

      Reply

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