Time to Talk Day: Why I decided to become a mental health first aider

07 February 2019 . United Kingdom

More than 90 Bupa employees in the UK have taken part in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England’s training course. Here some of Bupa’s mental health first aiders share why they wanted to take the MHFA course and what they took away from the training.

Gail Connolly

“I wanted to take the MFHA course because I am passionate about helping people with mental health conditions. I have had personal experience of this through the loss of my husband in 2011. I felt guilty for several years after this happened because I was not aware of the signs and we did not have open communications, which is so important.

Sadly, he left two young children behind and I struggled at the beginning to identify the best approach to help them at such a difficult time. Both went through counselling which really helped and because of this, I also helped a friend when she lost her husband to suicide. She told me I was a great listener and a great help, as I was able to direct her to the right support.

The training we received to become mental health first aiders was fantastic. It opened my eyes to many other mental health illnesses that I was not aware of and has given us the tools and resources to help people in need.

Following the course, we were given several routes and resources to assist when helping someone in need. The trick is not to try to find the solution, but to direct people to the right support and help. And Bupa already has several ways to help with the likes of the Smile health and wellbeing programme, employee assistance programmes and tons of information and help with wellbeing.

Having people like us in the workplace is so important. It means there are more friendly places in the organisation and we can help when people can’t speak to their Manager.

I have joined the Time to Change champions network to volunteer in my local community, I would not have been aware of this network had I not joined the MFHA network. I am hoping management experience and publicly advertising the fact I am a mental health first aider will mean I can help more people on a daily basis.

The training has made it easier to have a direct conversation about mental health. I encourage anybody who is suffering to speak to one of us or a counsellor in work. It is important to speak out and ask for help rather than suffer in silence.

Looking after yourself and your family is so important and whilst it may seem like there is no hope, there really is, baby steps; will get you there. That first step may be difficult, but after that it will get easier.”

Claire Baker

“Mental health affects approximately one in four of us each year, according to the charity Mind. I wanted to do something practical to help myself and others when they're not feeling themselves. The MHFA course taught us the differences between conditions and how to have appropriate and helpful conversations to point people to the help and support they need. We're not experts or counsellors. Just like physical first aiders, we're here to be a first point of contact to help - that may just be a chat, or it could be signposting to get some professional help.”

Rachel Dagg

“Mental Health is something close to my heart, both through personal experience and family members. Being able to understand and help people so they have somewhere to turn, someone to talk to is important to me.

“If anyone wants to talk about mental health but is struggling to start the conversation, I would say it’s hard, but do it, talk to someone you trust, let them know what you’re going through. Just make a start, it gets easier. If you think someone’s struggling, ask them if they’re OK. Take them for a coffee and let them know you care and you want to help. The important thing is to try.”

Katherine Innes

“I wanted to be a mental health first aider because I believe mental health should be given the same level of attention as physical health. It’s important to understand mental health and know how to talk about it. There are lots of myths and outdated stereotypes – it’s a complex topic and unique to everyone. As mental health first aiders we’re not trained to diagnose or become therapists. We’re there to listen, non-judgmentally, and let people know what help is there if they want it. Having an open and safe environment for people to talk can make a real difference.”