How Refreshing!

Last Friday I ran my first MHFA Refresher course. Aimed at people who completed the MHFA England Mental Health First Aid (Two Day), or Mental Health Champion (One Day) Courses three or more years ago – this half day, four hour course allows people to revisit their understanding of mental health and the skills to provide first aid support to someone experiencing mental distress.

I love training at the best of times, the opportunity to reach people and have really important conversations normalising attitudes to mental health and asking for help if we need it – but honestly sometimes it’s a scary business. You never know, when you walk into a classroom, how you will be received. You don’t know who’s in the room, why they are there, what their attitudes to mental health, or other issues might be – are they in a good mood? Will they take an instant dislike to me because I look like their evil aunty Mary? You never can tell.

People do Mental Health training for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes because they have personal experience, because someone in their family is going through some form of mental health challenge and they want to understand how to help. Sometimes because they want to support staff or colleagues – but lets be honest, some people come because they have been “sent” by the boss. Or because it’s a day off from the daily grind. Sometimes even because they have ingrained preconceptions that they don’t really believe in all this mental health stuff and they want to come and tell us all to get over ourselves. It’s fun! It’s even better when I can see I have made a difference with people like that, and helped them to understand and better support their loved ones.

If you are looking at rolling out Mental Health First Aiders in your workplace though – it might be a good idea for you to put thought into who the best person to receive the training might be. Some employers do have an application process, and I’d be more than happy to help you think about what you need.

Friday was different though. We were only a small group – but the difference with a Refresher course is that everyone there is definitely interested, committed, engaged. They’ve already done the initial Mental Health First Aid or Champion training, and they have gone away and used it in some capacity – and also noticed they now need to update that qualification. So the feeling, and the questions and energy in the room was fantastic.

It’s great to hear about organisations who have Mental Health First Aiders in place, about how they support staff, and support the Mental Health First Aiders in turn. Mental Health First Aiders alone cannot solve all mental health related issues within a workplace but they can be fantastic canaries in the coal mine to flag up issues and patterns of concern so they can be addressed on a more systemic level.

The refresher course is a great new part of that systemic approach – add to that some ongoing CPD to boost understanding of different mental health issues, keeping tied in to the information and resources offered by MHFA England, which can be used to raise awareness in the wider organisation, all help to effect that culture change that we need to see in our society as a whole.

I have another open refresher course coming up in Rochdale soon [book on via Eventbrite here]– but if you have a group of Mental Health First Aiders in your organisation who need bringing up to date – I can come to you. Please email sarahlongmhfauk@gmail.com for a quote.

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