Why do my employees need mental health first aid training?
Are your team up to the challenge of providing mental health support?
By Ella Bowman, Paws in Work Mental Health blogger
Columnist Eva Wiseman shared some of the trends we want to see the back of in an article in the Guardian. One of these was ‘talking about mental health.’ She explained that ‘over the past five years, mental health awareness has been promoted and commodified to the point where it appears to have looped back around and eaten its own tail.’
How apt that Paws in Work both provide a platform from which to discuss mental health, but that it’s no stranger to bona fide tail-chasing.
‘Mental health’ is often flimsily conflated with feeling a bit stressed or having moments of low self-esteem. Yes, stress. Yes low-self-esteem. But, we beg your patience as we briefly dip our toes into the desperation of poor mental health (promising an optimistic ending) beyond life being ‘a bit tricky’. When you’re not able to control your mood with a yoga class, and you need expert help in securing the best prognosis for something doctors are still themselves learning about.
Let’s revisit the gritty truth of what being really ‘not okay’ means, or else eternally drive around the ‘be your best self’ cul-de-sac, getting nowhere.
You might not understand.
And, really, it’s for you that we’re writing this. Existentially, it seems pretty terrifying. Your life, without comfortable control over your feelings, perceptions and/or reactions? But then people have been saying that ‘it’s okay to not be okay.’ There’s no shame in it, of course, but Wiseman paints a truer picture:
‘The point has been swallowed; the focus of the conversation has shifted from its initial aim – to improve the mental health of a country in distress – to the talk itself. Talking which increasingly seems to serve only the privileged talker, rather than the millions of listeners, who, if they gather the courage to call their GPs, will find themselves on a year-long waiting list. Who, if they enter the system will find themselves sent home on a sea of cuts. Who, if they speak out publicly about historical abuse will find themselves jobless, retraumatised, an object of suspicion. What a cruel trick. Talk gets cheaper every year.’
Make sure someone really understands.
There’s only so much gesticulating on behalf of mental health awareness that can be done before losing your attention entirely, so, in case you’re still terrified of those whose fractured emotions are front-and-centre: thank the gods for Mental Health First Aiders.
This lot see mental distress not as a contagion, nor as a weakness. Most importantly, though, they see it matter-of-factly. There’s no shaming nor drama and this kind of leveled pragmatism is just the ticket when you’re feeling unspooled. We should add here that well-meaning friends can feel hurt when their good intentions don’t help or get barked down. If you engage with someone suffering the effects of poor mental health as if it’s a state of personality, and therefore in need of cheering up, you’re likely going to find yourself pouring your efforts into a sieve, with few results to show for it.
Advantages of Mental Health First Aid.
Outside of measured empathy for people’s distresses, as outlined above, Mental Health First Aiders are excellent advocates for good company culture. We’ve heard of those whose breaks from work due to stress have been derided by colleagues. This is where Mental Health First Aiders come in: they can weigh in as advocates for those absent and steer conversations from mistrust to understanding.
Also knowing there are MHFAs on the team shows an organisation is willing. After all, it’s better than none at all… and in a best-case scenario, it’s someone people feel they can talk to and who can help them find their footing to a better outcome. This might be short term, in the face of a panic attack, say, or longer-term awareness and checking in through a treatment plan.
Not just puppies.
Paws in Work offer Mental Health First Aid training enabling the impact of their influence on teams’ wellness to extend far beyond their visits. It makes sense for a company that isn’t about gimmicks: they see how the need to socialise puppies and alleviate emotional strain in the workplace can answer each other to a good extent. Where the puppies’ good temperaments are being looked after, the Paws in Work team have a way to go in their plight to make the world a friendlier place for those with poor mental health.
For more information on getting Mental Health First Aid training with Paws in Work, please contact us.
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