Supporting Mental Health First Aiders During The Coronavirus
Over the last few years, one of the most utilised workplace initiatives to support wellbeing has been Mental Health First Aiders. The comprehensive course is over 2 days with the aim of ‘teaching people how to recognise those crucial warning signs of mental ill health and feel confident to guide someone to appropriate support’.
The role of a MHFA within the workplace is to ‘be a point of contact for an employee who is experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress. This interaction could range from having an initial conversation through to supporting the person to get appropriate help’.
This initiative is a fantastic start to supporting mental health in the workplace and with 140,000 trained in 2018-2019 it has shown to be very popular, with over half of FTSE 100 companies now having MHFA’s in the workplace. Within the workplace they may be referred to as MHFA’s, champions, advocates, buddies or be well allies, whatever their title, their role will largely be the same.
Another aim of the scheme is to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and put it on par with physical health. This is great and as time goes on, hopefully, we will see more employees and peers feeling comfortable enough to start a conversation with their MHFA’s. However, it is important to remember that ‘Mental Health First Aiders are not trained to be therapists or psychiatrists but they can offer initial support through non-judgemental listening and guidance’.
With the coronavirus outbreak continuing and more and more people isolating themselves, either as a precaution or due to showing symptoms, we may see more people struggling with anxiety, stress or low mood. Therefore, we may see MHFA resources being utilised more than usual, which is great but we also need to ensure our support is also supported. During this time it is vital that MHFA’s look after themselves and that companies take steps to ensure they are supported.MHFA’s – Support Yourself FirstIf you are a MHFA the most important thing you can do is take the time to look after yourself. If you are not in the right mindset, you will not be as effective in helping others. The more people that share their struggles and concerns with you, the more it can have an impact on your own mental health. It can be easy to absorb the emotions of others so make sure you follow these steps.
Self Care – Physically and Mentally1. Set Clear Boundaries – Decide on what your limits are, don’t overburden yourself with too much responsibility. Before you help anyone, make sure you know how much you are willing to do.
2. Share The Support – If possible, try and share the support role with other MHFA’s in your company. This has the added benefit of also helping you feel supported.
3. Talk – It can be an intense experience supporting others that may be struggling. Make sure you find someone you trust to share your feelings with. Remember not to share specifics or names of the person you are supporting.
4. Remind Yourself Where Your Responsibility Ends – Remember your role is to have a conversation, listen and help signpost. You are not a trained therapist so your responsibility is not to provide solutions. It can be very easy to overburden yourself when supporting others, so try your best to remind yourself of this.Refresh Your Knowledge1. MHFA Materials – When you completed the course you should have been given a certificate and a fold-out card summarising the five-step MHFA action plan to carry with you. Refresh yourself with these and any other resources given to you, so it is clear in your mind how to support your colleagues.
2. Company Support – Take the time to review the current benefits that your company offers, so you know what resources you have available to you when signposting.
3. Other Support – Under the current circumstances it may be harder than usual to see a GP. It could be worth while taking note of some other types of supports you could signpost people to, such as charities. Here are a few:-
Crisis Support – The Samaritans, Shout
Anxiety – Anxiety UK, No PanicHow Can Companies Support Their MHFA’s?Communicate – If not already done so, companies should put together a roles and responsibility policy so MHFA’s clearly know what is expected of them. Also, HR’s and/or management should check-in with their MHFA’s and make sure they have everything they need. It could be as simple as messaging on a daily basis asking ‘How are you, do you need anything from me?’
Educate – Send out regular communications on mental wellbeing, this can help both to educate but also highlight other wellbeing initiatives you offer, such as an EAP. Helping to educate the entire workforce will help clarify support and also work towards normalising the conversation.
Community Network – Set up MHFA network (with a clear remit) for support and idea sharing (perhaps overseen by someone with a HR background). You could use an existing messaging platform to allow MHFA’s to share ideas and offer each other support and guidance. If you do not have a platform you could leverage Whatsapp messenger or another service such as Slack.Stay SafeMHFAs during this time will be a huge asset to any organisation but alone will not transform the psychological wellbeing of a company or organisation, we must also focus on preventative measures.
We must all take the time to support each other, show empathy and patience. For most of us, this will be an unprecedented experience, so don’t judge yourself for your emotions, instead give yourself time to process them.
Everymind at Work will continue to offer free resources during this time and we hope we can continue to help you and your company.Do you want us to send you up-to-date free advice about managing your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak?