It goes without saying that first aid is an incredible skill to have. Helping colleagues, friends or family members in challenging moments and having the ability to make a difference – or even save a life – is a super-human quality. But, with a recession looming ahead, a challenging political landscape and the usual twists and turns that life can throw at us all, where do people turn to if it’s actually their mental health that needs support?
Whilst the conversation surrounding mental health has started to open up in recent years, discussing mental health or holding your hand up when you’re struggling can still feel like very much a taboo – particularly in the workplace.
Our solution has been to introduce Mental Health First Aid training to a number of our employees – a friendly and non-invasive approach that offers the best level of support to our team.
What is a Mental Health First Aider?
Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs) are the official point of contact for any colleague struggling with their mental health at Hallam.
All conversations remain anonymous (unless you are seen as a threat to yourself or others) and each of our MHFAs were put through their paces on a two-day course, with those successfully completing the training achieving an Ofqual Level 3 qualification. The aim of training is to support colleagues in their feelings and issues, with training given to help them the MHFAs to listen and hold supportive conversations.
Kier Humphreys, Experience Director and Hallam MHFA, explained: “MHFAs are trained to spot the signs of employees suffering with a mental health issue, have conversations with them to help them understand and work through some of their problems, and then signpost to professional or medical support where it’s appropriate. Each member completed two full days of training, covering an array of mental health disorders and need-to-know employment legislation, before carrying out practical tasks to help apply some of the learnings in real-world scenarios.”
Why should a business have mental health first aiders?
At Hallam, we want our team to bring their whole selves to work and this sometimes means supporting our colleagues through challenging times.
Jake Third, Hallam’s MD, explained: “The Covid-19 pandemic led to a profound shift in the relationship between employee and employer. We felt a much greater responsibility to look after the mental health of our employees, which is why we’ve invested in mental health first aiders and pay for free of charge access to therapy for our team for those who need it, as well as having introduced a number of policies (such as a miscarriage policy and a shared parental leave policy) to better support our staff. As employers, it’s important that we keep reinforcing the work-life balance message and having MHFAs means that we can continue to support our colleagues in areas where they might need it most.”
Increasing the support
We’ve recently trained an additional six employees as Mental Health First Aiders, who volunteered to take on the role, adding to the three original First Aiders we have in place. Some people may prefer to share their feelings with virtual strangers and others with a friendlier face; either way, the more people who are offering their support will hopefully make employees feel more comfortable in seeking it.
Jake said: “Having a mental health-friendly working environment is so important for us at Hallam: training up six more team members to become accredited Ofqual Level 3 Mental Health First Aiders was therefore an easy decision for us to make. They join the three current MHFAs we already have in place, allowing us to provide wide-ranging mental health support across the business.”
Jacqueline Martin, Social Media Consultant and newly-qualified MHFA, said: “The course exceeded my expectations – it was well informed and explained. Both the content and the delivery was engaging and interesting and it was great to share the experience with my like-minded colleagues, where we all took an open minded and honest approach to learning. We’ve already started putting our plan of action together for change and I can’t wait to see the tangible benefits for the rest of the team.”
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