How to become a Mental Health First Aider

MHFA England

It is widely reported that women tend to open up more about their emotions and life situations, compared with men, but it isn't always easy for anybody to open up a conversation about mental health. To begin with, where do we start? What if we say the wrong thing? What if the person we are talking to doesn't want our help? What if we need the support?

There are so many questions that overwhelm us, to the point when an appropriate moment to approach someone has gone... or worse still, we may actually bombard someone else with well-intended but unwelcome advice.

Research shows that humans tend not to take advice from others; we either ask for it as a way of reaffirming our own opinion, or we don’t ask – because we don’t want advice, or we are not ready for it or we are ashamed to tell others how we are really feeling...

It doesn’t matter how balanced or even relevant the advice is, this type of information mostly comes from a subjective place based on the advisor’s experiences or knowledge, rather than the best option for the other person.

So how can we help without giving advice?

Well, the first thing to remember that it is good to talk, and to listen... and it is vital to approach any situation appropriately, because one of the biggest problems is recognising the symptoms of mental ill health and supporting a person to manage their condition or to seek the necessary professional help.

As a Mental Health First Aider, you are not a qualified therapist, just like physical first aiders are not paramedics, but by following the Action Plan that is learnt during a Mental Health First Aid course, you can really make a difference to a lot of people.

It is a simple process to become a Mental Health First Aider:

  1. Visit the Mental Health First Aid courses, http://www.MHFAEngland.org
  2. Choose the right course for you,
  3. Attend the full course you apply for and you will be a Mental Health First Aider.

Remember that you can do these courses as an individual, or get work colleagues on board so that your organisation can assign specific team members to the role of Mental Health First Aider, with the aim of having someone in each department. There are also courses available for those working with youths and with the armed forces.

Remember, mental ill health can affect anybody, so the more awareness on the subject, the better for everybody’s overall health and wellbeing. Just like if you are a physical first aider, you do not have to help, but what these courses do is raise awareness, reduce stigma, and shed light on your own #mentalhealth too.

Jordan Martin