As a Mental Health First Aid instructor I get asked a LOT by my learners around how to promote the role to their colleagues. Launching a team of Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs) is a commendable step towards fostering a healthier and more supportive workplace. However colleagues need to understand the role- what it is, and isn’t. As well as understanding how to contact should they choose to make that brave step in reaching out for support. They also need to know that they are protected as talking to a colleague about their challenges could be incredibly daunting for an individual. To ensure a successful launch and to empower your MHFAs to make a meaningful impact, consider these essential steps.

1. Be Clear About Boundaries

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful MHFA team. Establish clear boundaries for your team members, including the method and time of contact. Make it known when and how employees can reach out to MHFAs for support. For instance, specify if it’s through email, a dedicated hotline, or in-person during work hours. By setting these boundaries, you ensure that both employees and MHFAs are on the same page regarding not only expectations, but also in ensuring the wellbeing and safety for all involved.

It is good practice to hold a policy document which clarifies this information and also obligations around confidentiality. A policy document ensures transparency for all involved. And can be referred back to if boundaries are crossed, helping to keep boundary related conversations objective.

2. Host a “Meet the MHFAs” Coffee Morning

Familiarity and trust are essential in any support network, and your MHFAs should be no exception. Organise a “Meet the MHFAs” coffee morning or similar event where employees can connect with their MHFAs in a relaxed and friendly setting. This informal gathering allows employees to get to know the MHFAs personally, fostering trust and comfort in seeking help when needed. Encourage open conversations about mental health during these meet-ups to reduce stigma and promote a culture of support.

3. Enhance Visibility

Visibility is key to the success of your MHFA team. Ensure that employees are aware of their presence and the support they offer. Here’s how:

  • Lanyards: MHFAs are provided with distinctive lanyards that identify them as Mental Health First Aiders. This makes it easy for employees to recognise them and approach them for help.It may be due to health and safety regulations that lanyards are not permitted. In this case badges could be worn or printed onto items of uniform/workwear.
  • Email Signature: Encourage MHFAs to include their MHFA designation in their email signatures. With MHFA England this is provided in the form of an electronic badge. It’s a subtle but effective way to remind colleagues of the available support.
  • Posters: Display posters around the workplace that highlight the presence of MHFAs and explain how employees can contact them. Visual cues can be powerful in reminding everyone of the available resources. This can also be powerful in terms pf parity of esteem when displayed alongside first aider posters.

Remember, the success of your MHFA team isn’t just about the launch; it’s an ongoing commitment to fostering a culture of mental health support in your organisation. Regularly communicate with your MHFAs, provide them with opportunities for training and professional development, and keep the conversation around mental health alive within your workplace. In doing so, you create a more caring and resilient work environment where everyone can thrive

If you and your organisation are considering MHFA training I’d love to chat and explore your options with you. I can pull on my years of experience to support you with your strategy to help make this a real success!

Jen Rawlinson