Agency leaders have recently been discussing the best ways to introduce mental health first aiders (MHFA) into the workplace.
Talking on the Agency Hackers Guild Forum, leaders from a number of different agencies opened up about their experiences with MHFA’s. Some also gave advice on the best places to turn to when looking for the correct qualifications to be a first aider.
One person expressed their skepticism about colleagues opening up to MHFAs – they suggested that, instead, the role of the MHFA should be simply to recognise warning signs and help to foster a positive mental health culture. They also mentioned that private health plans that offer professional services to help could be a better way to approach this.
A second person agreed with this thought, highlighting the importance of education on warning signs and supportive environments. They recommended Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) with access to counselling support can be a cost-effective alternative for agencies not ready for private healthcare.
Mental health first aiders act in a similar way to medical first aiders – they are there primarily to help someone when things are very bad, but their role is to only maintain status quo until a professional can be engaged
An MHFA instructor shared their thoughts with the group, pointing out the varying success of MHFA implementation in agencies. They said: “I have had heaps of experience of companies implement MHFAiders to great success and then others who just use it as a tick box and do nothing with it post course. Its a great course for the basics – It gives those trained confidence in having difficult conversations, how to listen, and where to signpost.
“It works best if you use it as a key part of your MH policy and keep a conversation about MH going in your agency so its part of your DNA. So do it along side a company wide talk/day/education piece so your team know how to use the MHFAiders (And equally, what they are not there for).”
Another person explained the training that they did with staff, sharing that the role of a MHFA is very similar to a medical first aide – someone to remain the status quo until a professional is able to step in and provide assistance. They also agreed that the main job of a MHFA should be to identify the early signs of mental health issues.
That do you think about the role of MHFAs? Should agencies have to introduce at least one to the workplace?
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