I first heard of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) some years ago at a Mental Health and Disabilities conference in London. I picked up a flyer which showed what a particular regional organisation was doing and a little about this training they were rolling out which aimed at bringing a “first aid” approach to the helping people experiencing mental health crises.
“What a fantastic idea” I thought. As someone with, as they say, “lived experience” of mental health problems, I could think of a million scenarios where someone, a friend, a colleague, a teacher, – could have helped me if they’d have had a little knowledge, and a little courage. And countless times when people tried to help and maybe made it a little worse, or harder to deal with, because they didn’t understand what was happening with me. I don’t blame them – at least they tried, but the potential benefit of giving “ordinary” people a little bit more knowledge about what to do in times of crisis – was instantly apparent.
Mental Health First Aid was developed in Australia and has been slowly spreading across the globe.
I attended the two day course in October, and learnt a great deal – more than I expected to. As someone with my own experiences of depression and anxiety – and many friends with an assortment of diagnoses – I have read a lot. But there is always more to learn. More importantly – I came away feeling better prepared to help others, and indeed myself, if the need were to arise again.
When my employer announced they were looking to get some people qualified to deliver the training, I leapt at the chance. And in February this year I joined a cohort of excited and committed people from many different backgrounds – all eager to begin delivering Mental Health First Aid training to the world at large. We had a great, and quite intense time together learning about the course, about different conditions, different forms of treatment / therapy. It by no means made us mental health experts or therapists – but helped give us a grounding from which to build our knowledge.
Tomorrow, is the first day of my first course. I am nervous, but excited, and hope my trainees find the course as inspiring as I did last year, and go on to help lots of people.