Why Should I Become a Mental Health First Aider?

Hi, I’m Emma! I’m a freelance trainer, consultant and writer in the field of mental health. I have experience of working in higher education and the charity sector. My areas of interest include young people’s wellbeing, mental health in the classroom, and the role of technology.

As an Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Instructor, I am trained to deliver these 2-day, internationally recognised mental health first aid courses. My passion is my work, and my work is my passion. What does this mean? Well, put simply, I wouldn’t teach the MHFA courses unless I believed in its importance! With over 250,000 Mental Health First Aiders in England, there’s no better time to become qualified.

We all know about physical health first aid. It’s a legal requirement for someone to be trained in all offices, schools and public services. But what happens when there’s a mental health crisis? From panic attacks, to traumatic events, to self-harm, psychotic episodes and suicidal behaviour, there has traditionally been a skills shortage in knowing how to act and support someone in these potential life or death situations.

First aid bearWhy is it important to tackle mental health problems?

 The topic of mental health is increasing in importance across the UK. The 2017 Independent Review Thriving at Work found that poor mental health costs the UK economy between £74 billion and £99 billion every year, with employers facing an annual cost of £33 billion to £42 billion.

There is also an undeniable human cost. This includes lost productivity – absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace – as well as welfare costs and lowered quality of life. It can impact a person’s personal life, their relationships with others and can contribute to a greater risk of certain physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Most tragically, it can lead to suicide, something which takes the lives of over x3 times the number of people who die in road traffic accidents each year in Great Britain.

Such problems start at a young age. It is estimated that 50% of long-term mental health problems start by the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 18. We are also seeing a great number of young people in crisis, and a 2017 NHS report found that child A&E admissions doubled over five years.

How can Mental Health First Aid help the situation? 

Let’s start with what the course does not do. The 2-Day, certified and internationally recognised Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course does not, in the space of two days, train participants to become therapists. Rather, just like physical health first aid it teaches you to listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis. It provides you with the confidence to spot signs and symptoms of mental distress. If you’re a manager or teacher, it provides a holistic understanding of mental health and mental illness, so you are better equipped to know what to say – and what not to say – if someone approaches you about their mental health.

So what will I learn on a 2-Day MHFA course?

  • A deeper understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect people’s wellbeing, including your own
  • Practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues
  • Confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress
  • Enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening
  • Knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to appropriate support

Mental Health First Aid is not intended to be the “Magic Bullet” to solve the mental health crisis across the UK. It is not intended to act as a replacement for primary or secondary health services, or be used as an excuse by policymakers to divert funding from the NHS. Put simply, it is one of many tools that can create a more open, mentally literate society. Just like physical health first aid, knowledge and training saves lives. A whole-system approach also aims to break down the stigma of talking about our mental health.

How can you become a Mental Health First Aider?

If you are interested in attending a youth or standard (adult) mental health course, or hosting a half day workshop on topics around mental health – from the impact of social media to self-harm, eating disorders and anxiety – please get in touch. MHFA England have already seen 250,000 people trained in mental health first aid and the numbers continue to grow.

You can also follow me for updates on Twitter (@MindfulEm) or Facebook (@emmawilsonmhtc).

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