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Our manifesto in practice

On this page you'll find more information on putting our manifesto into action.  Guidance is drawn from a range of trusted sources and bodies of authority in mental health.

Provide First Aid

Having Mental Health First Aiders in your workplace is one of the most positive steps you can take to supporting the wellbeing of those in your organisation.  You'll find out more about our training courses on the 'book a course' page.

How many Mental Health First Aiders do you need?

 

Legislation for Mental Health First Aid provision in the workplace is not yet in place. The Health and Safety Executive says:

 

“You should consider ways to manage mental ill health in your workplace which are appropriate for your business, such as providing information or training for managers and employees, employing occupational health professionals, appointing mental health trained first aiders and implementing employee support programmes.”

 

To demonstrate that your organisation views mental health as equally important to physical health, we recommend that you consider your organisation structure and the demands on the workforce. For some organisations it may be worthwhile aiming to have as many Mental Health First Aiders as physical first aiders.

 

Who should be a Mental Health First Aider?

 

Although MHFA England courses are open to all, asking employees to apply for the training will help you to recruit the people within your organisation who are best placed for the role.

 

We recommend that you train:

  • A wide range of individuals

  • encourage applications to represent the diversity of your workforce, from different seniority levels, locations, genders and ethnic backgrounds.

  • People who want to learn more about mental health to support others, whether or not they have experienced mental ill health themselves. Make sure that all applicants (not just those who have disclosed personal experience) understand what the role will involve and have considered their own wellbeing to decide if now is the right time for them.

  • People who spend the majority of their working hours on site at the workplace for which they are nominated and can be called away from their normal duties at short notice if needed.

  • People who can maintain confidentiality as appropriate and demonstrate an ability to relate well to others.

  • People who can commit to the time required and who have the Links support from their line manager to fulfil the role once trained

(Information courtesy of MHFA England) 

Reducing stigma

 

Most people who live with mental illness have, at some point, been blamed for their condition. They’ve been called names. Their symptoms have been referred to as “a phase” or something they can control “if they only tried.” They have been illegally discriminated against, with no justice. This is the unwieldy power that stigma holds.

Stigma causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. Worst of all, stigma prevents people from seeking the help they need. For a group of people who already carry such a heavy burden, stigma is an unacceptable addition to their pain. And while stigma has reduced in recent years, the pace of progress has not been quick enough.

All of us in the mental health community need to raise our voices against stigma. Every day, in every possible way, we need to stand up to stigma.  Words are powerful and choosing them with care is the first step in removing stigma.  Other suggestions include:

  • Talk Openly About Mental Health

  • Educate Yourself And Others

  • Be Conscious Of Language

  • Encourage Equality Between Physical And Mental Illness

  • Show Compassion For Those With Mental Illness

  • Choose Empowerment Over Shame

  • Be Honest About Treatment

  • Call out stigma when you encounter it

Being vigilant for mental ill-health

The signs of mental ill health are varied, and as individual as each person who experiences them.  Of course, one of the best ways to know is to start a conversation (see above), but you may want to look out for changes in someone's usual behaviours and some of the common warning signs: 

  • Not getting things done – missing deadlines or forgetting tasks.

  • Erratic or unacceptable behaviour.

  • Irritability, aggression, tearfulness.

  • Complaining about the workload.

  • Being withdrawn and not participating in conversations or out-of-work activities.

  • Increased consumption of caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and/or sedatives.

  • Inability to concentrate.

  • Indecision.

  • Difficulty remembering things.

  • Loss of confidence.

  • Unplanned absences.

  • Arguments/conflicts with others.

  • Increased errors and/or accidents.

  • Taking on too much work and volunteering for every new project.

  • Being adamant they are right.

  • Working too many hours – first in, last out/emailing out of hours or while on holiday.

  • Being louder or more exuberant than usual.

  • Negative changes to ways of working or socialising with colleagues.

Physical signs might include the following.

  • Constant tiredness.

  • Sickness absence.

  • Being run down and frequent minor illnesses.

  • Headaches.

  • Difficulty sleeping.

  • Weight loss or gain.

  • Lack of care over their appearance.

  • Gastrointestinal disorders.

  • Rashes/eczema.

 

(information courtesy of MHFA Line Manager's guide).

Providing support 

Talking about mental health can seem daunting, but we’ve all had conversations with people about bereavements, breakups and other life events – they don’t always start easily but they often mean a lot to a person having a tough time. 

It all starts with asking someone how they are doing in a warm and authentic way – giving them a chance to realise that you are being sincere and friendly.

Time and place

There’s a time and place for everything – and when it comes to talking with someone about their mental health, that means a time and place that is most comfortable for them. The last thing anyone needs is to feel rushed. Find a time where you know you have at least 10 minutes of clear time to give.

You may want to arrange a time for a longer chat – either in work time if appropriate, or outside work. You want to find a place that’s comfortable for them. Some people want peace and quiet – others like hustle and bustle. It’s very important to devote your full attention to the person you are reaching out to. That means minimising disruptions like phones ringing or notifications popping up.

Active listening

 

Listening is vital for every relationship. Active listening is a term for a range of techniques that keep us present and engaged in a conversation.  Try and have eye contact, unless the person you are talking to doesn’t seem comfortable with that. Be open – that means open arms and turning slightly towards them. 

You should acknowledge what's being said with appropriate nods and gestures, and repeat what they've said to check you got it right. Ask direct and appropriate questions – but it's not appropriate to probe for more details than a person is prepared to give. 

When the conversation ends, recap what you have discussed and agreed, and make sure you do what you say you will. It can help to have some information to hand. Put some helpline numbers and web links in your phone to pass on straight away.

Managing your own feelings

 

It can be hard to hear difficult or upsetting things, but you want to reassure and encourage the person – that means not showing signs of surprise or judgement. You want to reassure the person that it’s OK to be speaking to you, and that you will treat what they say with respect. 

It is tempting to immediately start suggesting solutions to problems – but it’s wise to ask a person what they want to happen. They may welcome suggestions, but, equally, they may just need to vent.

(Information courtesy of the Mental Health Foundation)

Reducing the risk factors of mental ill-health

Work plays a strong role in our mental health and wellbeing. There is a Maori proverb that 'work brings health' and the Royal College of Psychiatrists claims that work is central to many people's happiness. Not only does work give us the money we need to live, but it also provides social contacts and support, keeps us physically and mentally active, allows us to develop and use skills, gives us social status, a sense of identity and personal achievement, and provides a way for us to structure and occupy our time. However, work can also make us unwell.

Mental ill health is usually caused by a combination of work- and nonwork related factors: for example, the pressure of ongoing change at work and longer or more intense hours may be exacerbated by financial pressures at home, relationship problems and, given the ageing population, greater caring responsibilities. If the workplace is not supportive, it can trigger or exacerbate mental ill health, with anxiety, depression and stress-related disorders being the most common issues. Poor work environments, typically characterised by high demands, low levels of individual autonomy and poor support, can undermine the health and wellbeing benefits that 'good' work brings. In some cases the effect is toxic.

Employers are constantly seeking ways to maximise the productivity of their employees, and the enlightened ones understand that the way to do this is not to pile on the pressure, but to engage them and support them to work more effectively. Striking the balance between higher productivity and robust mental health is tricky, and it relies on strong understanding by organisations, and by well-trained line managers in particular, about how to create and maintain the conditions that support and encourage good mental health, and to recognise signs of ill health and provide appropriate support.

 

(Information courtesy of MHFA - Line Manager's Guide)