Annie – Are you OK? A review of our two day Mental Health First Aider programme

A drizzly March Tuesday morning and 9 delegates descend on the Loates office in Darley Abbey Mills. With lashings of tea and coffee and a stack of choccy biccies we are warmly greeted by our trainer, Amanda. Ahead of us is a 2-day course to qualify us as all as Mental Health First Aiders.

With 1 in 4 of the UK workforce having been diagnosed with a mental health condition it is important workplaces are safe and supportive environments. Our role will be to help our colleagues open-up about these feelings and facilitate discussions to signpost to the appropriate professional support.

Before we can get to that point the first thing Amanda has to do is to help us understand the feelings and stigma surrounding mental health illnesses. One of our first group exercises was to look at these two topics by drawing words and pictures on to the whiteboards. Worthless, tired, lonely, numb, panicked, worried, drained, and overwhelmed.  And some of the negative words associated with mental health such as Crazy, loony, nutter, pull yourself together, freak, get on with it, suck it up, mad, mental, and weirdo. We had some great stories offered up to help add greater depth to our learning which was really useful.

Working together in groups allowed us to draw from our diverse backgrounds and experiences and despite the subject matter, we actually had a lot of fun doing it. Fun was one of the key words on our course charter. Even though we were discussing some serious topics we could still enjoy ourselves, and it was important to maintain a positive atmosphere due to the serious topics being covered.

The ’hearing voices’ exercise we did was particularly powerful. It helped us to have some level of understanding and empathy for those that suffer from Psychosis. With such ‘heavy’ topics which included how to deal with an individual with suicidal thoughts, Amanda was very clear at the beginning to offer us an ‘opt-out’ of particular discussions. Our thumbs up as we left the room ensured everyone knew we were OK. Indeed, one of the jokes of the day was every time I left the room, I was asked ‘Annie are you OK?’ to quote the Michael Jackson song!

In our course literature, I am what was described as a minimizer – I play everything down and don’t really get particularly stressed. So, one exercise that I found really interesting was when Amanda introduced us to the concept of our ‘stress container’. Amanda described how we all have a ‘container’ that can get filled with the usual stresses of life. We can help drain this by our self-care routines: time with friends and family, having a hot bath, time alone, reading a book, listening to music, whatever it might be. However, if we don’t keep a check on this it can easily overflow and lead us to a situation where we feel out of control. It was an excellent exercise to personally consider where our stresses come from and then ultimately how we can reduce them. We were each set homework to spend one hour on the evening of the first day on something that truly made us happy, to help with our stress containers. As Mental Health First Aiders, our job is to notice when our colleagues stress containers might be reaching capacity and reach out to offer help.

As the 2 days came to an end, we all felt a lot more confident in our knowledge of mental health illnesses and how we can support our colleagues. We had all got to know each other a little better and probably added a few pounds with our consumption of biscuits, Haribo and pork pies! A great course that will not only help us as individuals but will also serve to help our colleagues. 😊

Here is what some of our other delegates who attended the session had to say:

The course instructor Amanda was very knowledgeable and delivered the 2-day course well. The course itself was informative, it helped increase awareness of mental health, the importance of having positive mental health, and the difficulties people can experience when they have poor mental health.

Having completed the course, I’m now better equipped to spot poor mental health and know how best to approach and support this in the workplace.

Dean Kellog, Business Manager, Fisch Design Ltd, Belper

I attended the Mental Health First Aid course held by Loates HR Training last week, I was impressed by the quality of training Amanda delivered, the course content was excellent and the reference material we took away was of a very high standard.

The venue was perfect the room was well ventilated and roomy and all the IT worked first time! Result!

I would also like to mention Loates’ team – they welcomed us and kept us well fed and watered throughout the course, they were professional courteous and delightful.

I would have no issue recommending this excellent HR consultancy for any training needs

Nick Gummerson, Office Manager, Safe and Sound, Derby.

I had a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere when I attended the mental health first aid course. The lunch was wonderful and tea and coffee was always available. I would recommend Loates HR Training every time for your training needs.

Kirsty Barnes, Siegwerk UK Ltd, Swadlincote

If you or one of your team would like to train as a Mental Health First Aider our next two-day programme runs on Tuesday 30th June and Wednesday 1st July and you can view details here:

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