Roger Swannell

Tag: MentalHealth

Mental Health First Aid training

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

Mental health awareness week: coping with stress at work

Does telling people to take time out of their day to play board games really help their mental health? Does having less time to spend doing the same amount of work make someone more stressed? Would helping people deal with being stressed be more helpful than distracting from it? Could a few simple workshop-type activities start to give people the skills for dealing with stress?

I have a few ideas about things that can help our mental wellbeing and cope with stress.

Getting perspective

Sometimes, when we’re really focused on something we can lose a sense of perspective about how important the things that are making us stressed really are.

Write down what the most important thing in your life is. It might be your family or loved ones, or achieving something meaningful to you, but whatever it is let’s give this most important thing a score of 100. Then, list the things that are causing you stress and give them a score between 0 and 100 to describe how important they are to you, not to anyone else, or to your job, but to you. Hopefully, when you add up all those scores they won’t even come close to the most important thing in your life.

Comparing the things that are causing you stress to the most important thing in your life can hopefully put those things into perspective.

Sharing achievements

If we spend our time thinking about all the things we haven’t done, how long our to do list is, and how those deadlines are looming, it’s easy to lose sight of the things we have achieved.

Share with someone (you have to say it out loud) some of the things you have achieved this week. Let them ask you questions about it if they want, but the important part is for you to recognise that you are getting things done and achieving things, even if you still have lots of other things to do.

Recognising and sharing achievements can help us feel good about ourselves as we have to admit that we have have made progress towards our goals.

Be kind

When we’re stressed we can often be quite terse with people, especially if we feel like they aren’t recognising that we’re really busy.

For every person that you speak to that day, try to say something nice, compliment them on something they’ve achieved, thank them for something they’ve done.

Taking the time to actively say something nice to someone not only makes them feel better but makes you feel better about being a nicer person.


Just breathe.

Thinking about a Bucks Mind Guide Chatbot

Buckinghamshire Mind is a local mental health charity that supports people across Buckinghamshire. Last year they created the Bucks Mind Guide, a fantastic resource with helpful links to all kinds of services that can support people with mental health problems.

Bucks Mind Guide Website

So, in my bid to make a chatbot for everything, I started thinking about how I could take the masses of information in the guide and convert it into a conversational experience and build a chatbot. My first thought was that because there was so many options for users to ask about and the bot to provide answers for, it couldn’t use button like most of my other bots and would need to recognise keywords and respond accordingly. I considered using Dialogflow (I used used it a while ago when it was API.AI) to handle picking up the keywords, and may still do so later, but to keep it simple I started with using Labels to pick up the keyword entered by the user and jump to the section of the flow that could provide an answer related to that keyword.

Bucks Mind Guide Chatbot

Now, I just need to add to the number of keywords the bot can respond to, and make the messages more friendly.

Are you crazy busy? 

Why do we use words associated with mental illness to describe how busy we are?

“It’s been a crazy day”, “His calendar is bonkers”, “I’m insanely busy next week”.

Is it because on some level we all recognise that being too busy leads to stress and poor mental health?

Copyright © 2019 Roger Swannell

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