I deliver several different mental health training courses at the moment, some of them well established, others just finding their feet (and new ones in the pipeline). They all have their subtle differences, are great for different requirements – and are generally well received. However sometimes it is possible to tell from feedback that someone was expecting something else. Usually it is not that the course has not delivered – but that they had a different idea of what they were going to be learning.
Often sadly this comes when an organisation talks about “Mental Health First Aid” training, but then commissions shorter “Mental Health Aware” courses. It’s important to recognise that not all MHFA England accredited training is “Mental Health First Aid” training. All of it aims to improve your understanding of mental health, and ability to manage your own and support others to some extent, but it’s obvious that a 4 hour course is going to teach you much less than the two day or 4 session online course. So – be clear about what you need, and what you are getting.
Mental Health Aware training is excellent for a broad brush initial approach to raising Mental Health literacy in your organisation. But those who you expect to be offering more direct support to individuals need to take a deeper look at the issues, and be given an opportunity to discuss and practice a bit more. You should also be giving careful thought to how you support those Mental Health First Aiders, and if possible ensure they have good resources to which they can signpost employees in distress.
It’s common for employers to choose the cheaper option and perhaps think Mental Health First Aid training is out of their budget range – but if you come to an independent accredited trainer like myself we tend to offer at a much more affordable rate – so do ask for a quote for all options to make sure you make the right decision for your staff.
Another common disappointment comes from the age old urge to fix things. To do something. How do I approach this, what technique can I use to make this better?
Of course we cover some basics in this area, considering how and when to raise our concerns with someone. The kind of things we might want to bear in mind, and thoughts about the kinds of questions we ask. But there is no one right set of words to say, no one magic exercise which will help every person you are faced with. It would be wrong to pretend there is. Even things which many can find very effective may be completely wrong for some. All we can do is give you a framework, and encouragement to build your own toolkit for yourself, and to be able to support others to do the same. And the one universal tool that enables us to do this is talking. More specifically – listening. Giving someone else the space to listen. Unconditional, non-judgemental and empathetic support. Sometimes that is all people need – someone to hear and validate the difficulties they are facing, the pain they are in. Yes we can go on to help them work out a way forward, find solutions and draw on other supports. But we mustn’t underestimate the sheer power of being able to let go of all we have been bottling up.
That’s not to say I don’t think there is space for a more practical approach – and I hope to offer something soon – first on boosting wellbeing, and then on managing mental distress. But they are in general individual approaches, things we can practice ourselves which can make our more difficult moments more bareable, or which over time increase our experience of more positive mental states. When it comes to what another person can do for me, if I am struggling – It’s not about them giving me some tips on calming down or cheering up, I want to know they care. That they see me, my pain, and they are there for me, listening, holding, hearing.
So which course is right for you and your staff? Some basic pointers below, but please get in touch if you would like to discuss the courses on offer in more depth.