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  • January 17, 2022
 
 

By Alison Shine

I used to think that “mental health” was only a thing when it was going wrong; the rest of the time, I didn’t give it a second thought. After a particularly difficult couple of years which saw me dealing with a close family member’s ill health and subsequent death, plus a stressful working environment and big life changes at home, I fell into a very deep depression which took a while to overcome. Over the years, I’ve come to realise that mental health, like my physical health, exists on a scale – some good days, some bad, but with lots of things I can personally do to ensure I’m taking care of myself. If I had had the tools to recognise and seek help earlier, it might have stopped me spiralling.

I volunteered alongside my colleagues to become a Mental Health First Aider because I’ve always felt passionately about helping people. I’ve always seen myself as an approachable, friendly person and I empathise with those with their own struggles. It’s sometimes hard to know what to say, or when to be particularly concerned about somebody’s words or behaviours, and I hoped that taking part in this course would give me the tools to effectively signpost people, and to be a comfort in a crisis.

Mental health issues are common. Over 1 in 4 people will experience some form of mental health issue in their lifetime – although in the current climate, I would personally put it much higher. Recent studies have shown that anxiety and depression levels in the general population are at an all-time high, and many countries have recognised an increased urgency to strengthen mental health systems to mitigate mental health crises. The estimated total cost of mental ill health in England alone is £105 billion per year, and 72 million working days lost – and that’s not to mention the human impact. Not only does it cost us productivity, but it also costs us relationships and our self-esteem.

Since I joined MRG in 2020, I knew that this was a company that took mental health and wellbeing in the workplace seriously. During the pandemic, the Board recognised that there was a need to offer as much support as possible to the team, by empowering individuals equipped to help, speak to, and offer advice.

MHFA is evidence-based training designed to increase mental health awareness, knowledge, skills and confidence. Launched under the Department of Health in 2007, they’ve trained people from over 20,000 workplaces across the UK. They believe that everyone should have the tools to practice good mental health, and aim to empower people to help themselves, and others, to achieve this. Over the course of two days, myself and two of my colleagues attended an intensive workshop where we learned about the impact of mental health issues, the stigma and discrimination around mental health, and various common mental health conditions and how to identify them – including how to help when someone is in a mental health crisis. We also practiced non-judgemental listening skills and learned about the importance of self-care.

What I enjoyed about taking part in this course, was that it gave me the confidence to know when to signpost and offer the right advice in a given situation. It also gave me a deeper understanding into why my mental health spiralled the way it did years ago, which warning signs to look out for, and how to prevent that from happening again. It gave me a clearer understanding of the factors that can influence mental health, how to address stress in the body, and how to practice good mental health hygiene.

 

My colleagues have also shared what motivated them to take part in this course.

Rob Cullum – "As someone who has dealt, and will continue to deal, with mental health challenges throughout my personal life, I understand how this can impact all aspects of someone’s life, including the workplace. Having been in the recruitment industry for over 20 years, I feel that I would be able to offer an understanding and personal empathy to challenges that people may be struggling with. I would be able to draw on my own experiences to offer support and give very real-life examples that would give confidence to people. I have looked at the MHFA course before, and as someone who is passionate about this – I have always wanted to expand my knowledge and be able to help and support others."

 

Emilia Fasano - "Work in the past has had a massive impact on my mental health and I love that MRG recognise its importance in the workplace. Driving a culture of wellbeing I’d like to help prevent others from having similar experiences to me, or – if they do – give them the tools to be able to get the help they need and get back on their feet. We should all feel the ability to talk freely about mental health."

 

We strive for MRG to be an employer of choice and a fantastic place to work, with values that reflect who we are as people – tools such as the MHFA course are helping us to build that reality.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with their mental health, please visit the MHFA website, which has a wide selection of resources you can utilise.