“The millisecond my hands left the rail, it was an instant regret…”
These are the words of Kevin Briggs, a survivor of attempted suicide. The BuzzFeed video is just a small insight into how someone’s mental health can develop into an illness and eventually be a risk to life, but those words stayed with me for days, after my colleagues and I were fortunate enough to spend the afternoon being trained as Mental Health First Aiders.
A Mental Health Epidemic
Mental Health has been a non-stop topic of discussion for so many throughout the pandemic. A situation so unique and restrictive, that it’s brought to light issues people didn’t even know they had themselves. Whether it’s remote working affecting mental health, or the uncertainty of furlough driving the overthinkers amongst us crazy – we’ve all been made much more aware of the importance of sustaining our mental health.
At JBP, we have a dedicated wellbeing team for that very reason. We help facilitate activities for all the team to keep their mental health in check. We’ve sent out care packages, organised physical and virtual coffees, and are there as an ear to listen to any concerns or ideas that the rest of the business have, we even did laughing yoga.
For us, Mental Health Awareness Week isn’t about just posting about what should be done, we’re active in our concern for the topic. So, it was only natural to look at how we further support our teams in this area and formally train a few individuals to become Mental Health First Aiders in the business.
What is a Mental Health First Aider?
In any business it is a requirement in the UK to have a trained First Aider on-site, in case of an emergency this ensures immediate care to a victim, until the situation is resolved, or further assistance is needed from medical professionals. However, there’s no law to say that our mental health is looked after in the same way.
Understandably, it’s a sensitive topic for many, society has attached a lot of stigma around talking about mental health. However, by having Mental Health First Aiders in a business, employers can trust that there is a structure in place that facilitates supportive, non-judgemental conversation available to their staff. For employees, they can feel secure knowing that their company supports their wellbeing and that all discussions are confidential.
Additionally, the first aiders are also trained to recognise the symptoms and patterns which people might display when suffering mental health issues. This is simply designed as a method to look out for the rest of the team, and if required, start a conversation with an individual if they recognise signs of a mental health issue, to support and signpost the services available to help.
What does Mental Health First Aid training involve?
The training was an afternoon of learning about key topics, covering stress, depression, anxiety, psychosis, eating disorders, self-harm and suicide. Understanding the signs of these conditions and the consequences of these when not addressed.
Lead by an excellent mental health professional, our very own Senior Counsel – Jo Hudson, we discussed our own experiences and how we could relate those to recognising symptoms in others. We were given examples related to the workplace, of how to deal with someone who might be suffering with mental health and taught how these conditions can manifest in alternative ways than what we might expect to see.
Our course material also included a list of services to recommend for people, and Jo also helped advise on some HR practices that we could put in place, as well as inspire activity for the wellbeing team to action, to help further support the team.
As we progressed through the training – the whole subject matter felt more and more vital to ensuring that as a business, we commit to supporting our teams in a more diverse way. As we emerge from the stresses of lockdown and start new working patterns, mental health awareness will be key to creating a safe and comfortable environment at work, and I am proud that JBP has taken the steps to provide this.
This Mental Health Awareness Week, you’ll see us posting all about those tricks to keep your mental health in check. When you’re in a positive state, these are brilliant reminders, but as we progress in our understanding, it’s important to recognise that sometimes, drinking more water or walking around outside at lunch sometimes just doesn’t resolve everything.
Talking about our mental health is a fantastic way to help us process our feelings as well as remove the stigma that we’re expected to feel 100% all the time. Without the lows, how would we be able to enjoy the highs?