We spend around 33% of our lives at work, so it is important that employers recognise the importance of wellbeing in the workplace. We caught up with recently qualified Mental Health First Aider, Mark Allum, about his experience of completing the course and its importance in his workplace at Marshall Aerospace and Defence.
Why did you want to complete the Mental Health First Aid course?
It was mainly for personal reasons as some of my family members have been struggling with mental health issues and a family member sadly took their life. I wanted to gain a better understanding of how I could help and educate myself about mental health; I come from a generation where it wasn’t ‘masculine’ or common to talk about your feelings and mental health.
What were your thoughts about the course beforehand?
I was sceptical as I thought it was going to be a touchy, feely course and that I was just ticking a box by completing it, but I was completely wrong! I got so much out of it and now I can’t recommend the training to friends, family and colleagues enough.
What did you learn from it?
My main takeaway was to not turn away from someone in crisis and to not be judgemental. Before the course, I believed that I was doing the right thing, but discovered that certain actions affect people differently and that was a real eye opener. A huge example was looking at self-harm, your first impulse would be to tell someone to stop, but you don’t actually know if that’s a coping mechanism for someone who may do something worse if you tell them to stop.
What do people need to know before they go on the course?
You’re not fixing someone’s problems as a Mental Health First Aider; you’re signposting them to the help they need. The course allows you to spot the signs and be a friendly face for people to approach when they need someone to talk to. You won’t leave the course as a qualified therapist, but you will have a good understanding of how to support someone who is experiencing mental ill health and direct them to get professional help if necessary.
Why do you think it’s important to have MHFA in the workplace?
The training changed my perspective around mental health completely. I have l worked in a male-centric environment, where we don’t tend to talk about our mental wellbeing, so as I’m now a fully trained Mental Health First Aider I’m better equipped to spot signs of concern. The way my generation has dealt with mental health issues in the past was not helpful. “Suck it up, buttercup” and similar phrases were always used as a deflection, to avoid tackling difficult subjects. It is important that more men take the course so they can understand the importance of mental health, raise self-awareness, and feel like they have a point of contact to express their worries.
My generation use humour to cope with, and deflect, stress and trauma but we need to learn how to properly deal with these emotions. You can’t bottle things up. I think there need to be a lot more Mental First Aiders in the workplace, so more people can understand the issues, and everyone feels like they can confide in a colleague they can trust.
How did you find the training?
It was extremely interesting; I was in a cohort of different people and they all shared their mental health experiences. It made me realise that everyone is human, has their own stories and it was a space where we could be open with each other. We covered all aspects of mental heath from anxiety to psychosis.
How have you used your learning and implemented it into the workplace?
I’ve spoken with my colleagues and recommended that they also complete the course. My team know that I’m trained and I’m happy to be a friendly and non-judgemental ear to listen to them about anything, confidentially.
A huge thanks to Mark Allum for sharing his experiences on the Mental Health First Aid qualification.
Find out more about the mental health first aid course here.