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A different kind of first aid

Knowing what to do if someone has a heart attack or nasty fall is one thing but would you know what to do if someone with a mental illness, rather than a physical one needed urgent help?

The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day on Monday, 10 October is mental health first aid (MHFA).

Hazel Sawyers is a mental health first aid trainer who works with Twining Enterprises in West Ealing to deliver training to a wide range of people from NHS staff to builders.

Courses cover matters such as what to do if you think someone may be suicidal, how to help someone having a panic attack and recognising the symptoms of depression.

Mental health first aid training

Hazel said: “The official statistic is that one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year so in a typical day we will all encounter people dealing with mental health issues, although it may not be obvious.

“During the training we look at the stigma around mental health which can stop people wanting to be open and discuss their problems. Nobody would judge someone who had cancer but they might make judgements about someone with a mental illness.

“Learning to listen without being judgemental is a real skill and will help the person speaking to be more open.”

At the training sessions trainees learn about five key approaches, known as ALGEE:

  • Assess the risk of suicide or self-harm: It is OK to ask someone if they feel suicidal and get emergency help if there is an immediate danger
  • Listen non-judgementally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage the person to get professional help
  • Encourage the person to use self-help strategies which could be anything from joining a support group to doing some exercise.

Hazel said she gets very positive feedback from people who have completed the training with many reporting back to say how they have used their skills to help others.

“One man said he’d arrived home after the training to find his teenage daughter having a panic attack because of stress about her exams,” she said. “He was able to help her slow her breathing and later talk about her worries about the exams.”

Being open about our wellbeing

Ealing Community and Voluntary Service and Ealing Council staff were  among those who took part in Twinning’s  mental health first aid training last year.

Angela Dodwell from Ealing Community and Voluntary Service said: “The biggest thing I got from the course was to understand how to respond to other people and to make them feel comfortable enough to talk about their mental health. By being more open about our mental wellbeing we can help people get support when they need it.”

Mental Health First Aid England is supporting World Mental Health Day by calling on everyone to ‘take 10 together’ and have a chat with someone – friend, family member or colleague – about how they are feeling.

For suggestions on how to talk to someone about their mental wellbeing visit www.mhfaengland.org


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