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Mental Health Awareness Week: What is a Mental Health First Aider?

Mental Health Awareness Week: What is a Mental Health First Aider?

Here’s EVERYTHING you need to know about Mental Health First Aiders

Someone’s fainted and split their chin, or a child’s fallen in the playground and scraped their knee – who do you call? Your First Aider.

Someone is struggling to get out of bed every morning; heavy with nothingness, they can’t get through the day without sobbing. A child is so anxious they are frozen in fear during social situations – who do you call? Your Mental Health First Aider.

READ: Who is our school Mental Health Lead?

Just because you can’t see the injury doesn’t mean it’s not there. In a society where 1 in 4 people have mental ill-health Mental Health First Aiders are important; mental wellbeing is just as important as physical wellbeing.

Gone are the days of the ‘keep calm and carry on’ approach to hard times and tough days now, quite rightly, it’s ‘talk about it and slow down if you need to’ – because it’s okay not to be okay.

What is a Mental Health First Aider?

Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA), a proactive and preventative measure, first started in Australia, a MHFA is trained to listen. They are trained to spot the early signs of mental ill-health in others. They are taught to confidently guide someone to support, both internal and external, and they are equipped to deal with emergencies too – such as psychosis, thoughts of suicide, or attempted suicide.

DISCOVER: Who can I talk to?

It is important to note however that MHFAs are not qualified therapists, counsellors or psychiatrists. While they cannot advise, they can listen and offer support options.

A MHFA is trained to:

  • Maintain confidentiality (unless someone’s physical safety or life is at risk)
  • Spot early signs of mental ill-health
  • Assess the risk of self-harm or suicide
  • Listen to what people are saying without judgement
  • Know when to contact the emergency services (if it’s required)
  • Care for their own physical safety and mental wellbeing
  • Know how to start a conversation with someone who may be experiencing emotional or mental ill-health
  • Encourage people to use additional support that’s available, including internal and external support systems
  • Complete critical incident documents where necessary

Having a Mental Health First Aider at school lessens the stigma that still surrounds mental health. It encourages children to feel confident in speaking out about emotional matters and mental struggles more openly and positively while at school.