This week we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week and are delighted to highlight our new and growing team of Mental Health First Aiders at Software Solved. We are proud to support Mind as our charity for 2021 and continue to promote mental health throughout the business to support colleagues and beyond.
Charlotte Rook, our HR Manager recognises the importance of supporting mental health and wellbeing at work and states: “At Software Solved mental health is as important as physical health. In an environment where maintaining good mental health has become increasingly difficult due to the pandemic, we wanted to be able to offer even more support to our staff in the form of mental health first aiders. Our mental health first aiders help to spot the early signs of mental ill-health and encourage staff to access internal and external support. They also play a key role in raising awareness and reducing the stigma around mental ill-health including through campaigns such as this week’s Mental Health Awareness Week”. At present, our Mental Health First Aiders are Jonathan and Lizzie. To highlight her experience of the course, Lizzie explains the role and shares her takeaways from the course.
I am interested in mental health and have a passion for raising awareness. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to train to become a Mental Health First Aider. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about all the conditions and how daily life can quickly become affected. I wanted to take part in and complete the course, not only to support my colleagues at Software Solved but to look at how I can incorporate my training into daily life. The pandemic has highlighted to me, even more, the importance of making sure we take care of both our mental and physical health because it is in our interest coming out of the pandemic and on the other side that we address the wellness of both our bodies and our minds. The course gave me a great insight into how there is still a stigma about mental health, people sometimes think mental health means ill-mental health but actually a lot of things are covered under the umbrella of this condition, including wellbeing. We discussed how everyday certain terminology is often wrongly used and the stigma within society leads to further misunderstandings of illnesses such as schizophrenia. The videos throughout the course offered help to visualise the topics and receive first-hand advice and acquire a greater understanding of the challenging experiences of mental health.
What do Mental Health First Aiders do?
Similar to a regular first aider who would provide essential primary basic support for physical injuries while a patient awaits professional medical help, a Mental Health First Aider can be someone to talk to, trust and provide basic support and essentially signpost individuals with mental health conditions to the most correct support and resources. Mental Health First-aiders also promote a workplace culture where staff are free to discuss mental health issues openly, feel supported by their colleagues and make their role known among staff by taking part in mental health awareness.
After qualifying to become a Mental Health First Aider, you acquire:
- Practical skills to spot triggers and signs of issues
- Confidence to step in, reassure and support during a crisis
- Knowledge to help somebody recover their health and find further support
The typical roles and responsibilities of being a mental health first aider are…
- Spot the early signs and symptoms
- Start a supportive conversation with a colleague who may be experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress
- Listen to the person non-judgmentally
- Assess the risk of suicide or self-harm
- Encourage the person to access appropriate professional support or self-help strategies. This might include encouraging access to internal support systems such as EAPs or in-house counseling services
- Escalate to the appropriate emergency services, if necessary
- Maintain confidentiality as appropriate
- Protect themselves while performing their role
Takeaways from the course
The biggest takeaway from the course for me was adapting the appropriate approach and how to make sure you ‘throw your backpack of life baggage’ that you carry around with you of your own life experiences aside. Your primary intervention is to listen, offer non-judgmental, useful, and helpful advice, based on the training approach and ALGEE (ASSESS the crisis, LISTEN and communicate non-judgementally, GIVE support and information, ENCOURAGE appropriate professional help and ENCOURAGE other supports).
I really like the phrase ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’, this is so true and again this course showed me the importance of making sure you not only look after yourself but also support others to do the same. I like to visualise it as making sure you top up your glass with implementing a few small things into your daily life to make sure you look after yourself and do not run out of water.
One thing that helps me personally, is to set some time aside to give myself a mental MOT, just like you would your car, but more regularly. I also try to follow the bullet points below and work on areas I need to improve (we are all guilty of letting things slip). The better the balance of self-care and wellbeing, the better the output in life.
Suggested ideas to improve mental health:
- Build a routine
- Keep active
- Stay connected with others (vital to our wellbeing)
- Eat well and drink plenty of water (take time to really enjoy your food)
- Relax and unwind (especially after work)
- Don’t bottle up worry, a problem shared, is a problem halved
- Sleep well (aim for up to 8-9 hours a night and maintain a night-time routine)
- Do daily activities that bring you joy
- Keep a small notepad and write everything you are grateful for each morning
Useful links from Mind:
- Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk/
- Guide to support services: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/
- Helplines: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helplines/
Jonathan and I consider ourselves to be approachable and caring individuals, with a natural aptitude to want to help where we can.
At Software Solved we are proud to have a growing number of mental health first aiders who unitedly want to make themselves available to support any colleagues who might be struggling so we can help to keep us all mentally healthy.
If you are interested in finding out more about MHFA England, click here.