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We’re here for you: My mental health first aider journey

Monday 21st March 2022

David Miller from NECS Consultancy discusses his training as a Mental Health First Aider and why NECS has invested in this initiative across its teams.

For many of us 2022 marks the beginning of a third year of working remotely. Whilst there have been undoubted advantages to working from home, it has also introduced a variety of new challenges for employees up and down the country. As the ‘WFH’ novelty turned to the norm by late-2020, NECS Consultancy were mindful of the impact which repeated lockdowns and working from home messages were having on the mental and physical health of members of the team.

In response, NECS put a significant investment into enhancing Mental Health provision through additional staff training and development. Mental Health First Aid training was provided to at least two members of each of our 7 regional Consultancy teams, with the intention being to offer a first point of call for colleagues who needed any support or information around mental health for themselves or a family member. Our contact details were shared through a redesigned section of our intranet to give everyone from the organisation a choice of colleague to make contact with via email, phone call or on MS Teams if they wanted to discuss mental health.

Whilst many of the facts about mental health are well known and regularly quoted, some statistics continue to offer pause for thought. For example, each year 1 in 6 working age adults experience symptoms associated with mental ill health, with anxiety disorders being experienced by at least 1 in 10 people in the UK annually. Despite everyone having higher and lower periods of mental health during their lifetime it remains, for some, a difficult topic to discuss with colleagues, friends or family. Often people are far more comfortable talking about their ‘stress’ rather than talking about their anxiety or low mood.

Having a group of trained Mental Health First Aiders embedded within each team and supported by a wider network of trained colleagues, has allowed more open conversations to occur around mental health through the use of the recognised ‘ALGEE’ approach: Approach, Listen, Give support, Encourage professional help, Encourage other support. Our training also complements a wider NECS offer of support which includes: regular 1-1 conversations with line managers; virtual gatherings as regional teams; wellbeing action plans; a weekly ‘coffee roulette’ chat with a colleague; as well as access to wellbeing training and third party apps such as Headspace, Unmind, and Sleepio.

Having trained Mental Health First Aiders within the team over the past two years has ensured that there is far greater awareness of what signs to look for to indicate if a colleague is suffering from a period of poor mental health. We have also tried to celebrate and remind colleagues that there are lots of ‘protective factors’ which can support good mental health such as healthy eating, exercise and cultivating interests and hobbies through mini-presentations, refreshers and activities linked to World Mental Health Day. It has been a privilege to have been involved in this initiative to raise awareness of mental health and it has really made me think differently about how I can best support colleagues, clients, friends or family with any mental health issues they may be experiencing. As a final thought, encouraging ‘protective factors’ and ensuring early intervention does reduce the need for mental health treatment and periods of recovery, which we are committed to as a care system support organisation.

Contact NECS Consultancy to understand how we have supported clients to think differently and develop new models of care.  Find out more here: NECS Consultancy

David Miller, Consultant
NECS Yorkshire Consultancy Team
david.miller5@nhs.net