• Tim

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

Introduction


I’m always being asked what Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is, so this short article will hopefully be useful to answer some questions.


Like with physical first aid, Mental Health First Aid is the initial response we can provide to someone who is experiencing a problem with their mental health.


Earlier recognition and intervention may minimise the severity of the issue and make it easier to resolve. The longer someone is left without support, the worse the problem gets. Read this post about the costs associated with mental health problems to find out more.


Mental Health First Aiders are trained to recognise and safely engage with a person who may be struggling, sign-posting and encouraging them to get appropriate support.


In this way, individuals and organisations can be mentally healthier and the human and financial costs minimised. A win-win if ever I saw one!



Why do organisations need Mental Health First Aiders?


According to the World Health Organisation...

Mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual can realise their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community

In its simplest terms, it's about how our mind works. About our thoughts and feelings.


However, just like our physical health, our mental health can go wrong. When it does, there can be significant human and financial costs to everyone involved.


It’s worth remembering that 1 in 4 people in the UK will have a mental health problem at some point, and that includes you. I’ve met people from all walks of life who have been experiencing a mental health problem, so if you think it won’t happen to you, I can assure you that it could!


We all move between feeling good, finding things hard and maybe even becoming mentally ill. Amongst other things, this may lead to having time off work or affect our relationships. Read this post about the Mental Health Continuum to learn more.


It’s worth noting that this statement is true both for people with and without a diagnosed mental health condition. People with a diagnosed mental health condition can be feeling and doing well at work, just like people without a diagnosed condition can be finding things hard or can become ill and have time off.



What do Mental Health First Aiders do?


Mental Health First Aiders are specially trained members of staff who can help someone experiencing a problem with their mental health. They will use a Mental Health Action Plan to guide them through this process. Read this post about Mental Health First Aid Action Plans to find out more.


When their role is advertised within an organisation, individuals who are experiencing a problem may contact a Mental Health First Aider directly to discuss a problem. This is particularly effective when there is an open and mentally healthy culture in an organisation.


Equally, Mental Health First Aiders may recognise a potential problem in someone, or they may also take referrals from other members of staff or managers who are concerned.


Once aware of a potential problem, Mental Health First Aiders will safely engage in conversation with the person, to try and find out what's going on.


If they think there's a problem, they can signpost people to sources of professional help, such as their GP, local mental health service or an appropriate charity service. They may also provide encouragement to the individual or assist them to access or engage with a service. Mental Health First Aiders will also help the person to develop positive self-help strategies if necessary.


As well as directly helping people, Mental Health First Aiders may also be members of the organisation's wellbeing committee, helping to raise awareness or develop a mental health strategy.


Summary


Mental Health First Aiders can play a crucial role in minimising the human and financial impact of mental health problems on both individuals and organisations. They are an essential part of a mentally healthy culture and often get involved in helping to develop this within an organisation.


Please get in touch if you have any questions or you'd like to discuss training Mental Health First Aiders in your organisation.