why mental health first aid can be a lifesaver at work
This is a guide on everything you need to know for implementing mental health first aid in the workplace and its importance, as well as developing the required skills and tools needed on handling different scenarios that you may encounter with a colleague who needs assistance.
By Emily Roach, Paws in Work guest blogger.
we’re all in the same boat.
Everyone has a state of mental health. Whilst some people have positive mental health, others are experiencing poor mental health. The state of your mental health can change due to varying circumstances that occur in life, which is why it’s very important to look after your own mental health in addition to understanding how to help others. This can be done by learning and recognising the signs of someone who may be suffering with poor mental health and incorporating the most appropriate ways to help them in the present and future.
mental health isn’t predictable.
As previously mentioned, a person can experience ups and downs with their mental health throughout their lives, it’s only natural. There’s no written rule or set schedule on how it is meant to be and how to resolve hurdles, some things can take time to rectify and may require different techniques to do so. Certain methods may work wonders for some people, whereas others may not suit their needs, everybody’s different. There can also be crossovers between people's personal and professional lives. Elements of someone’s personal life may affect their mental health which can translate into their working life and vice versa - professional strains and stresses can greatly interfere with their everyday life. When someone’s mental health starts to interfere with these elements, it is time to address the situation.
how work can help.
For some people who may be experiencing a decline in their mental health, work can be a safety blanket. Work may offer a positive distraction and bring back routine, focus and structure into their lives. A change of scenery can do so much good for mental health, as the negative associations made with being in certain surroundings are disconnected when coming into a new environment. Work provides many with a sense of independence and control, it also gives employees the opportunity to socialise and perhaps confide in their colleagues, especially if they live on their own and do not have the opportunity to discuss their feelings with others at home.
how to make employees feel comfortable and safe at work.
Whether you’re an employer or colleague, there are many things you can do to make sure all employees feel comfortable at work. Firstly, it should be encouraged that employees are able to discuss different topics that can be sensitive, such as mental health. This is to show that it is important to have conversations based outside of work and to try and erase the stigma on speaking about mental health which many people face. By doing this, it could encourage employees to come forward in seeking advice or just wanting to have someone to listen to them to get things off their chest. This will also bring a warm and safe atmosphere into work, showing employees that it’s okay to be vulnerable with others, if they choose to.
Regular breaks away from the desk should be implemented throughout the working day; perhaps the whole team can participate in team bonding exercises during these breaks. This will help establish and strengthen the trust between employees, showing they have a reliable source of support at work, should they need it. Puppy therapy is a great example of a relaxing and fun exercise that the whole team can participate in and can lead to open discussions in a safe space. What’s not to love when you’re surrounded by a litter of gorgeous cuddly pups?
what can happen if we don’t step in.
If we don’t try to help our employees who may be going through a difficult time, the consequences could be severe, such as a further spiral of poor mental health which could potentially have unthinkable consequences. This can be prevented by helping someone with the first key step of starting the conversation and not keeping their thoughts and feelings bottled up. Sometimes the first step is the hardest, and will help many people feel much better, just from initially discussing their feelings.
This could then lead to the person receiving the help they need to combat their mental health decline. Now more than ever, it is recognised how important it is to speak about thoughts and feelings. This has and will continue to save countless lives of those who need support.
the importance of mental health first aid.
Learning mental health first aid in the workplace is just as important as learning physical first aid. It is hoped that this will become a legal requirement in the near future, to match the standards of physical first aid. The good news is there are a variety of mental health first aid courses available to provide people with life-saving knowledge. MHFAs (mental health first aiders) are able to identify warning signals of mental health decline in others, understand what can affect someone’s mental health, learn how to listen carefully and give the best advice and also help direct colleagues to receive the best type of assistance moving forward.
become a mental health first aider.
Would you like to become a MHFA and help erase the stigma on speaking out about mental health? If so, sign up to one of our mental health first aid courses to get the ball rolling. By studying and completing these courses, you will have the experience on how to help your colleague’s mental wellbeing and potentially save someone’s life, which is an invaluable skill to have.
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