Last week I attended the AIQ Level 2 Mental Health Awareness and First Aid course. My intention was to quality assure the new Ad- Lib Training qualification from a students perspective.
Obviously I could be accused of being bias, but I can honestly say it was the best training I have attended in a very long time. The content is so relevant to this day and age. Mental health affects all of us in our professional and private lives. One in six adults experience a common mental health problem every week.
When I was younger a person with a mental health problem was simply labelled as being mad or mental. Thankfully terminology has moved on and the stigma is changing. There is now a much better understanding of the vast array of mental health issues such as:
· Anxiety such as stress, phobias and PTS
· Eating disorders
· Addiction and substance abuse
· Self harm
And many more!
Mental health can affect our sleep patterns and activity levels. It can make us feel fatigued and can often make us feel worthless or guilty. Mental health can affect our concentration and make us indecisive. It can affect our weight by eating more or losing our appetite. In severe cases it can make us suicidal.
There are over 6,000 suicides a year in the UK. Approximately 78% are male and 22% female. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 in this country (www.mentalhealth.org.uk).
Although it is now commonly spoken about it is not always easy for people to seek support. Mental health can make people feel very alone and isolated.
The Mental Health Awareness and First Aid course soon became an environment where we shared our experiences of mental health. All of us had experienced times in our lives when we did not feel in control or felt helpless when seeing people around us suffering some sort of breakdown.
It is not always easy to recognise the symptoms until behaviour is outwardly obvious. The course has given me the tools to start a conversation as soon as I see the signs. It is something that will never be easy as it is difficult to discuss someone’s mental state, but it clearly can make a huge difference. It could possibly save a life.
Robin Gargrave and Katie Horsley-Page who deliver the course were adamant we needed to run a face-to-face workshop day as part of the training package, to make the learning experience more effective. I am naturally shy and have to come out of my comfort zone on a regular basis to have a conversation with strangers. The thought of discussing my mental wellbeing with others was not on the agenda and I felt comforted that I was not going to be forced to share. However, it soon became clear that in the right environment people do open up. It made learning easy as we had an opportunity to listen and talk.
The resources for the programme are excellent. The workshop day is backed up with a very informative workbook and online learning. It covers all learning styles, as there are tasks, Youtube videos and discussions. The manual can be used as an effective reference book.
I used to be the Director of a large training organisation. Deadlines, budgets, people management, customer experience and competition put myself and the team under constant pressure. Long hours and family life added to the pressure and daily stress. Looking back, I wish there had been the position of Mental Health First Aider in the department.
My working life is very different now; I work with a small team and we are hopefully very aware of how we are all coping. My new skills will help me monitor the situation and make sure none of us allow work to contribute to mental health despair. We cannot control the mental wellbeing of others but we can promote a healthy environment and make sure everyone feels they can get the much needed support.
I realise this can read as a promotion for the Ad-Lib Training Mental Health qualification, but I am not going to apologise for that. Just the same as we expect to get access to a first aider in the workplace, I am now more than ever convinced there should also be a Mental Health first aider in every organisation.