Why I did this course

By Ingrid Fawcett, Communications Manager, ABC Life Support CIC

When I joined ABC Life Support over 3 years ago, I had never heard of Mental Health First Aid. I had a very basic understanding about Mental Health, but my learning soon accelerated! Working through Covid really opened my eyes to the impact that the pandemic was having on so many people. When we did the Covid 19 and Mental Health survey, I was staggered by the responses we had and the honesty in the sharing. 

When I was offered the chance to attend the MHFA course at Wyboston Lakes I jumped at the chance. I’d been writing marketing content about the course and had seen the course outline, but I wanted to know more.

When I arrived at the training centre in May last year, I was nervous, would I be asked to share any experiences I might have had? How honest was I prepared to be? Was I empathetic enough for this training? I quickly found I didn’t need to worry.

The course atmosphere was relaxed yet the content and delivery were really powerful. I found the blend between discussion, group work, working through case studies and activities gave me a really solid understanding. What I found really interesting was the personal stories that some of the learners shared and how we linked back to the training. It felt like a very safe and nonjudgmental space.

Discussing and trying to understand the different mental illnesses was really difficult for me. It was an intense two days and in it we covered topics way out of my comfort zone, from anxiety to psychosis, substance abuse to depression. This course doesn’t aim to make you a Mental Health expert, but it does give you the tools and confidence to act in the first instance. This training does need to be used in a way which is careful and considered. You wouldn’t rush up to someone and put their arm in a sling if they haven’t broken their arm.

  • Should you do this training? – Absolutely!
  • Is it comfortable and fluffy? – Absolutely not!!
  • Could this training give you the confidence to help someone get some help before things escalate? – Definitely.

About a week after I did the course, I got a call from a friend; they were worried about their sister and didn’t know what to do. I was able to listen, suggest places to get help, encourage them to keep talking to their sister. Without the training I wouldn’t have known what to say, how to reassure and how to help them help their sister.

The Mental Health First Aid Bill is at the start of its journey through the House of Commons. The aim of this bill is to make it a legal requirement for employers to have Mental Health First Aiders in their businesses.  There are of course some questions as to how this might be implemented within organisations but I am sure the same questions arose around Physical First Aiders back in 1981. From my experience of MHFA training, the more knowledge we have – no matter how it is gained, is an absolute must.

Read more about the Mental Health First Aid Bill and how it could affect employers.