Implementing Mental Health First Aiders

I have been asked a number of times in recent weeks for guidance around how to effectively implement Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAiders®)

It’s great that organisations are no longer wanting to just ‘tick a box’ and instead are focussed on how to implement MHFAiders® well so that they have a positive impact in the workplace.

One of the benefits of working with many organisations is I have seen both sides, and everything in between. From those who have done it well, through to those who jumped in, did the training and then found they’re having to go back in retrospect and put the support structure in place.

I thought it apt to share some of the guidance I have been providing, and from experience what I have found works well in practice.

  1. Communicating the role.

    Communicating to the rest of the business the role of an MHFA and just as importantly how you contact them. This helps ensure people are able to confidently and discreetly reach out for help. It is also important that everyone understands the role and the boundaries too. Such as an MHFAider® doesn’t provide advice, or counselling or therapy.

Get into the practicalities with those communications. Posters detailing who your MHFAiders® are, are great. But don’t forget the practicalities around how someone would go about having a chat with one. It can be particularly daunting for someone who is struggling with their mental health to just walk over to someone and approach them. Thinking about confidentiality how can you make this easy? Would it be an email for instance, and is this readily available to all members within a company, or only those who are office based? Or are there set days and times perhaps where an MHFAider® would be available in a particular location? There is no one size fits all, but lots to consider to make it work for your organisation. It really is worth taking the time to do so.

  1. Support for MHFAiders®.

    With the recent update to the MHFA England training programme, MHFAiders® now have access to a support app for 3 years. Not only are there exclusive resources and signposting tools, 24/7 support is included via SHOUT. Support shouldn’t stop there.

Regular check-ins are important. The role is a voluntary role for most people and the mental health of those needs to be considered. There may be times when a MHFAider® needs to step away from the role due to things they are currently going through personally. Consider how this is made clear and how they would go about taking that step away.

It could be a MHFAider® has had a particularly difficult interaction. Who can they offload to?

Another scenario could be when a MHFAider® believes a person is at risk. What is the escalation process? Who would they contact? An MHFA policy can be helpful for all of these circumstances. Setting out the process and steps clearly in a document makes it much easier in the event that any of these things could happen.

  1. Regular review.

    Key things to consider reviewing are utilisation of the MHFAiders®. If they aren’t being approached is there a reason why? Could the process to access the support of an MHFAider® be made simpler?

If they are being approached, are there any trends or themes in the nature of what individuals may be struggling with. While the specific details would be confidential, trends are a great way to provide direction for any future initiatives or to further develop your wellbeing strategy.

  1. Data

    is important to help you understand the effectiveness of your MHFA initiative. There is so much data that you could review as a result. I wouldn’t suggest all of these but perhaps identify 1 or 2 key areas you are looking initially to improve. (It’s also not an exhaustive list but can give you some inspiration.) Identify your key measures and take it from there.

  • Absence data
  • Reasons for absence (this may increase for mental health related reasons which could be a positive sign demonstrating people feel comfortable in sharing the real reason for absence) It doesn’t necessarily mean the strategy is having an adverse effect in terms of wellbeing
  • Interactions with MHFAiders®
  • Employee Assistance Programme usage
  • Signposting
  • Qualitative data from exit interviews in relation to employee wellbeing
  • Employee Engagement surveys
  • Recruitment

While many of these may be helpful, you can’t track everything at once. Look at how you can have the biggest impact in terms of the key areas you are influencing. Starting with just 1 or 2.

  1. Choosing the right team of Mental Health First Aiders.

    Who your MHFAiders® will be is important in terms of an indicator of overall programme effectiveness. Try to have as many people represented at different levels within the organisation.

You don’t want only line managers for instance as people may find it quite daunting to open up to a manager, even if it isn’t their own. It is also often not acknowledged the support for those much higher up in an organisation too. Is there someone trained who they could also have a chat with if they needed to as well?

Consider diversity and try to have as many people represented increases the likelihood of someone feeling more able to reach out for a conversation.

 

Effectively implementing Mental Health First Aiders can be a positive step forward for any organisation. Taking the time to plan and prepare is essential to the success of the programme. As always we are here to help and chat anything through with you. We have lots of experience of working with organisations of all different sizes and sectors and are always willing to share best practice.

For a no obligation chat please contact Jen at jennifer.rawlinson@flourishinmind.co.uk I’d love to hear from you!