At Barts Health, our mental health first aiders are trained to give aid to those who are struggling with their mental health or are experiencing a crisis. Our press officer, Freddie, discusses mental health first aid and why he became a mental health first aider.
What is Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a concept which I think many can feel is quite an abstract one but in reality, it’s a lot simpler than you might think.
The term Mental Health First Aid was first coined in Australia and was the brainchild of Betty Kitchener AM and Professor Tony Jorm, who developed a not-for-profit organization for mental health training and research in 2000. Since then, the programme has now been adopted and delivered in 24 countries. To date, over 4 million people worldwide have been trained.
Mental health first aid is given to those who are:
- In the process of developing a mental illness
- Experiencing a worsening of mental ill-health
- In a mental health crisis
MHFA courses provide members of the public with the following skills:
- How to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health problems
- Knowledge of the possible risk factors
- Awareness of the treatments available
- How to help and support someone with a mental health problem
- How to take appropriate action if a crisis arises.
Being a MHFA on a day-to-day basis means being a supportive ear…
I decided to become a Mental Health First Aider for a couple of reasons. The first is that I have lived experience of mental health difficulties and am diagnosed with anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The second is that I wanted to develop the existing toolkit I had to support people in work and outside it. I also wanted to add to the knowledge I had about mental health, mental illness and how different types of mental health conditions can manifest in people. I learned invaluable things on that course that I wasn’t expecting to.
In my role, being a MHFA on a day-to-day basis means being a supportive ear whenever someone in my team wishes to disclose something regarding their mental health. In these conversations, the most important thing is to actively listen to what they say, treat them with compassion and if required, signpost them to appropriate resources or professional support they can access.
If someone comes to you in a crisis, you may have to implement a more advanced toolkit such as grounding techniques, countering irrational thoughts with kindness and soothing someone as much as possible but your foundation as a MHFA-aider begins with the principles I listed above.
You don’t have to be an expert…
Anyone can be a MHFA-aider and its not a skill which should feel impossible to develop. It’s a two-day course, is available to all sectors, and has been one of the best things I’ve ever done.