Our Mental Health First Aid training experience

During the last week of June, five of us at Grain — Rosie, Izzy, Kenneth, Madelyn, and myself — attended the Mental Health First Aid course, a two-day long online training programme which aims to inform us about mental health issues and equip us with skills to support community wellbeing. The course was delivered by the Mental Health Charter and focused on raising awareness as well as skill development by empowering people to notice early signs of mental ill health, listening and signposting to support recovery.

What is the MHFA?

Mental Health First Aid was created in Australia in 2001. The courses can be licensed and culturally adapted by suitable mental health organisations internationally. As of now, over four million people worldwide have been trained, making MHFA a global movement with an active community.

Launched in 2007, MHFA England is a social enterprise which offers guidance and training to support mental health in workplaces, universities, schools, colleges and armed forces. Over the last 10 years or so, MHFA has been at the front line of campaigning for mental health awareness. They have partnered with the charity Student Minds and introduced a Higher Education MHFA course as well as launching the Youth MHFA in Schools programme.

In 2018, they supported the release of the UK’s stress survey which revealed a generation gap in how mental health was dealt with in the country. As a response, they were a part of an Open Letter to the Prime Minister which called on Government to amend the health and safety legislation to prioritise mental as well as physical aid. In the last three years, there has been a greater emphasis on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and MHFA England plays a crucial role in raising awareness, providing everyone with essential skills to support each other and thrive in the community.

Two days of training

The course was split into four online sessions over two days covering topics like depression, suicide, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm and psychosis. Each topic was explained in detail and was complemented by useful first aid and helpful responses which were tested out through case studies and role play between attendees. These exercises encouraged everyone to pay attention to the language we used, our own frames of reference and stigmas and also helped us reflect on ways we could support ourselves with self care.

Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways from these sessions was the training we received about spotting early signs of mental ill health in those around us, and how we could intervene early to provide reassurance and support. In tandem with the online sessions, the attendees also completed exercises from a workbook and engaged in group work. Through the discussions, we were able to think of diverse ways of approaching and treating issues as well as discuss our personal experiences with mental health.

Finally, after two days of online learning, five members of the Grain team received their Mental Health First Aid certification and with it essential skills to create a workplace and a community which prioritises mental wellbeing as well as physical health. The last two-plus years during Covid have shown us how important it is to check in with those around us and as we return back to normality, we should continue looking out for each other, creating a community which offers aid and support in whatever capacity we can.

Why don’t you become a Mental Health First Aider too?

We encourage all of you to look into having at least one Mental Health First Aider at your company, and to take the course regardless of your affiliation with any company or other employer. Michael Lloyd of Mental Health Charter was a fantastic instructor who we can recommend wholeheartedly.

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