The Journey to Becoming a Mental Health First Aider

  • 14/05/2024
  • Written by NOE CPC

At NOE CPC, our commitment to mental wellbeing is intertwined with our social value commitments. In partnership with our host trust Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (LYPFT), we have recently formed a dedicated team of Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs), working across a variety of teams and departments within our organisation. These individuals have been provided with the skills to offer support to the wider team, and will also act as ambassadors of our dedication to ensuring we build and maintain a supportive work environment. Integrating best practice and open conversations for anybody who needs them.

Three of our team have kindly shared some of the personal motivations that led them to becoming Mental Health First Aiders, and provide their views and opinions on the training, as well as the impact and benefits they predict it will have on any participating organisations.

The Stories Behind Our MHFAs

Our MHFAs bring a wealth of personal experience and empathy to their roles, driven by both personal and professional motivations. Laura Kitteridge shared: "Mental health issues have seldom been discussed in the past. I pursued this training because if I can help just one person, it will have been worth it." Similarly, when asked Anne Toone shared that she had experienced a personal tragedy in which she lost a close relative to suicide, she said: “His death motivated me to become a Mental Health First Aider, to help families find the necessary support during mental health crises."

Tim Cole's story also echoes a personal call to action: "After losing my best friend to suicide, I was driven by the need to prevent it from happening to anybody else, by being there for those who are struggling."

The journey to becoming an MHFA is not only about acquiring knowledge but also about transforming that knowledge into action. Laura added: “Although some parts of the training were quite in-depth, it taught me to listen more actively and notice subtle signs of mental distress."

Tim echoes the importance of preparedness, stating: "The course opened my eyes and made me look at things differently. It prepared me to offer advice and support and be a shoulder for anyone in need."

The Transformative Power of MHFA Training

MHFA training extends beyond learning how to support others; it encompasses personal growth and enhanced self-awareness. Laura said: "The training made me more attentive and empathetic towards others.” Tim  highlighted the broader workplace benefits, he added: "This initiative not only strengthens team bonds but also enhances our collective awareness of mental health issues."

Mental Health First Aider Training often leads to profound personal growth and enhanced resilience, both for the MHFAs themselves and their colleagues. Tim described his personal evolution and said: "Being a mental health first aider has opened my eyes to different perspectives and made me more aware of the mental health challenges we may face silently."

Anne shared a similar sentiment, "The training took me on a journey of self-reflection about the importance of managing my own mental health, just as I would my physical health."

Cultivating a Culture of Care

Howie Javed, who led the MHFA training, brought a unique perspective, shaped by a diverse career that spanned from rock music to psychology, and ultimately to mental health advocacy. He said: "My journey through personal challenges and professional shifts has taught me the incredible value of supportive networks and the importance of mental resilience." During the training sessions, Howie emphasises creating a non-judgemental environment. He added: "We focus on creating a space where people feel safe to discuss their mental health without fear of judgement. Opening up is a sign of strength, not weakness.“ My work with Mental Health First Aid England as a national trainer reflects a commitment to spreading this ethos. My role allows me to help organisations understand how to better support their teams, ensuring a culture that prioritises listening and understanding."

Enhancing Organisational Health

As an organisation, we strongly believe that MHFAs significantly enhance our workplace, creating a supportive community for all our team. Laura added: "Implementing MHFA initiatives brings immense value, transforming our workplace into an environment where everyone feels safe to express themselves and seek help without hesitation."

The presence of MHFAs contributes significantly to a healthier, more engaged workplace, Anne added: “Organisations shouldn’t hesitate to invest in mental health training—it’s beneficial for all.”

Through tailored training sessions, Howie and Mental Health First Aid England offer resources that are crucial for developing a supportive workplace. Howie, as a seasoned trainer and advocate, encourages organisations to adopt MHFA programmes.

You can learn more about these programmes and explore opportunities for your organisation by visiting Mental Health First Aid England.

Thank you to Anne Toone, Laura Kitteridge, Tim Cole and Howie Javed for being so open and willing to share these personal experiences, to highlight the importance of the role of MHFAs within the workplace. Creating a workplace where mental health is openly supported and valued.

We encourage other organisation to consider introducing this training to work towards an open and supportive culture, where mental health is integrated as part of everyday discussions.

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