The Importance of Mental Health First Aid Training

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I often get asked about the importance of Mental health first aid training and, the importance of it in my own life.

But before we go down that path, I think we need to look at why we are even talking about Mental health first aid training in the first place?

This is not a new idea, Mental Health First Aid as a concept came into being in 2000 (the idea was seeded three years earlier in 1997) in Australia, and has since taken over the world, to use a quote directly from their website (

“Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) courses are a suite of internationally acclaimed and evidence-based, accredited training programs that empower and equip individuals with the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to support a friend, family member or co-worker experiencing a mental health problem or experiencing a crisis such as being suicidal.“

The key message for me in all of that, is support and the potential to save someone’s life, and that’s where we pick up my story.

I spent 26 years in the corporate SAP sales and marketing space in senior management positions of large global organisations, over all those years, it was usually part of my job to work out how people think, act, and make decisions. And more importantly, I often had to assess how large corporations looked after their staff.

Sadly, at that senior level, not only do things get very political, but business decisions often get made with spreadsheet economics.

People get forgotten, they become a number. And in April 2018, I once again found myself on the receiving end of a redundancy notice, my third in 6 years.

Like any of us would, I had to think about my next steps.

Initially, I turned to what I was familiar with – consultancy, advisory roles, etc. But I have always loved mentoring, loved training, and loved enabling other people to do better, be better and get better.

So, I started to wonder what I could achieve with this – how could I harness this enthusiasm?

Fast forward six months, and in November 2018, I attended a Mental Health First Aider course.

It was one of those courses that I was aware of but didn't really know the details.

It was only when a good friend trained as an Instructor that I felt it was the right time to take the leap too.

It was truly a nirvana moment. I walked out of those two days, turned to my wife and said "This is what I want to do. No, this is what I need to do”.

I need to make sure that what happened to me in 2016 doesn't happen to someone else.

If I only reach and help one person, then that's OK, but I really want to help many people".

I applied for the next Mental Health First Aid Instructor program (which was in May 2019) and started to pore over the pre-learning program to make sure I was the best I could be.

Fast forward to September 2020, and I am happy to say that I have trained or influenced over 2000 people in looking after their mental health better and to be healthier people.

That first course and that Instructor (We will call him Ross for anonymity purposes) genuinely changed the pathway of my life.

I realise that I am an extreme case and for many people taking the First Aider course, it won’t make them leap up and shout eureka and start to train to become an instructor, but I am pleased to say that I get feedback almost monthly about how some small skill picked up on the course or a nugget of information has actually helped someone to help someone else

We stress on the course that we are not Dr’s, we are not trained consultants or psychiatrists, we are not mental health nurses nor trained professionals able to diagnose.

What you do learn on a mental health first aid course is empathy, the ability and qualities needed to be a good listener, you learn a process to help out in a potential mental health crisis, you takeaway a wealth of knowledge and resources that enable you to signpost to the right professional help outlined above.

We do not diagnose, we listen.

We do not judge but realise that not everyone is the same and that we are all unique.

We learn that our life experiences shape our thoughts, our thoughts drive our actions and our emotions.

We spot the signs associated with stress and anxiety overwhelm, we see the subtle signals that indicate when something isn’t quite right.

As Mental Health First Aiders, we have the experience and the knowledge to potentially save someone’s life.

With Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year and 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week, now is the time, more then ever to equip ourselves with the skills and tools needed to help and support each other.

If the thought of a better equipped and empathetic workforce doesn’t move you, may I ask you to look at the cost implications of not dealing with the problem, a report published by Deloitte in January 2020 cited that Mental Ill health was responsible for £45 billion lost to the UK employment economy each year, let’s think about that for a moment, £45 Billion.

It also went onto to say that investment of mental health awareness, Training and support has an ROI of £5 for every £1 spent, as organisations in the SAP sector, where else can we get that level of investment return.

I would like to leave you with one last thought

How are you? Are you OK? And by that, I mean, are you really OK?

We know that for many people asking that question can be hard, and it’s often even harder to answer truthfully.

An essential part of mental health support is being honest and sharing information if we feel comfortable.

So, let’s start a conversation today and lets maybe change someone’s life.

If you would like to know more about Mental Health Training for your organisation or as an individual, Wellbeing strategies or Gap analysis, please reach out to Simon, Director of Wellbeing for Thrive. 471 1233 or speak to a member of the UKISUG team.

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