I completed the two day Adult Mental Health First Aider course. It provided an overview of various mental health conditions and a framework for supporting people with poor mental health.

Although the course was really interesting and helpful, what was also interesting was who was on the course and what that says about mental health awareness in workplaces.

Who was on the course

The types of people taking the course is interesting in helping to understand how mental health first aid and promoting better mental health in the workplace currently is and where any gaps might be. As this is only one course it provides a very small data set so the conclusions are spurious at best, but still it’s interesting to think about.

Gender split

There were twelve people, two men and ten women, on the course. I wonder if its because mental health first aid is seen as the responsibility of the HR department and more women work in HR. Arguably, men need to learn the skills of a mental heath first aider so I wonder if there is an opportunity to encourage more men to take the course and target more traditionally male workplaces.

Role split

6 in HR, 4 in frontline service delivery, 2 others.

It makes sense that frontline service delivery people would need mental health first aider skills, and it’s interesting that organisations still regard mental health as falling within a HR role in the workplace rather than being a shared responsibility, although perhaps HR people are best placed to raise awareness all across an organisation.

Two of the participants were from PR agency that had received Mental Health Awareness from Bucks Mind, so although this is just one example it suggests that small awareness sessions create lead generation opportunities.

Sector split

There was a broad spread of industries; insurance, construction, charity, PR.

It was good to see some many different industries. I guess it could be good to target industries with more well-known mental health issues, high-stress environments, those with lethal means, etc.

MHFA isn’t a legal requirement in the way that physical first aid is so businesses that pay for their employees to go on the course must be doing so because they believe in the value of encouraging better mental health at work.

What did I learn

The course changed my perception of mental health. It made me realise that we all have mental health and it exists on a spectrum. Sometimes we have better mental health and sometimes we have poor metal health. This viewpoint removes the ‘us and them’ between those who society regards as having mental illness and those who don’t. It makes it about health rather than illness.

It inspired me to want to find ways to build better mental health and acceptance around seeking support into the workplace culture so that rather than there being a single mental health first aider in a workplace that people go to for support, we all work in ways that encourages better mental health and supports people