I 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.