What is Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid is nothing but a concept similar to first aid but aimed at assisting people to maintain good mental health and a process to intervene. It is the first-hand assistance offered to any human experiencing new or worsening mental health problems or any individual in a mental health crisis.
Those trained in this field to offer assistance to people going through emotional distress are called mental health first aiders. The duty of mental health first aider is to identify the person at risk and refer them to a professional.
Why understanding what mental health is & mental health first aid is the need of the hour?
The concept of mental health and mental health first aid is still alien to our sub-continent, given the fact we have more than 1,39,000 people succumbing to suicide in 2019 alone, the highest in the last 10 years!
With technology engulfing our physical world, limiting human touch when virtual interaction took over as the new normal, it is high time that corporates educate their employees and human resource professionals on knowing more about what mental health is all about and how to identify people struggling with mental health challenges.
Through the certification course by the Mental Health First Aid India came an opportunity to equip me as mental health first aider. This helped me identify those struggling to maintain mental health and the process of intervening when anyone’s mental health and safety are compromised. This was beneficial in both walks of my life, both professional & personal.
Mental health first aid can be a boon to employees dealing with mental health issues like anxiety, fear, substance use, eating disorders, gambling and addiction problems, etc. Mental health first aiders are equipped with the knowledge to guide and provide assistance to individuals experiencing mental health crises like suicidal thoughts, maniac depression, psychosis, panic attacks, trauma and abuse, addiction-related issues, and other aggressive behaviours until the time they contact a counsellor.
Mental Health First Aid certification for Human Resource Professionals
We still see a stigma attached to any employee who visits a therapist/psychologist in our workplaces. Let us get some perspective on this. A psychologist is similar to your dentist or a personal trainer, who gives you the needed assistance. Obviously, the function varies and is centred around mental health, but the willingness to seek self-help and ensure safety and overall wellbeing is something no human should resist or stray away from.
Know the signs, know how to talk:
As a human resource professional for 7 years with a background in mental health and social work, psychology has always been my prime area of interest. Human interaction and mental health and wellness have been the centre of my work life. With the majority of an employee’s day spent at work, I feel that Human resource professionals should be primely equipped to identify warning signals of employee mental health problems to offer assistance before it is too late.
If you are a human resource professional, you must know the warning signs of mental health issues and crises to offer assistance to employees without delay. Some warning signs to watch out for may be,
- bizarre or unusual thinking
- decreased social interactions
- dip in performance or sudden loss of focus
- emotional outbursts
- substance use
- guilt or worthless feeling
If any of your employees are experiencing any of the above symptoms, initiate a conversation. Instead of asking, “What is wrong with you?” ask, “How are you feeling?” Be transparent about your concerns about mental health. Let them know that you have approached them in their best interests. Respect the employee’s feelings and do not judge. Be empathetic while talking. Remember that dismissing their feelings or trivializing their emotions will worsen the situation. Know what to talk, how to talk.
The fact is mental health issues themselves are a broad spectrum. This makes mental health first aid training an absolute necessity for human resource professionals. The concept of this certification on mental health first aid for managers and human resource professionals is to read the signals of those employees identified to have mental health issues and empathize with them until a professional intervention is set in place.
Most multinational corporations have EAP – Employee Assistance Program. But the question is, do your employees feel confident to approach these platforms to open up about their mental health issues and seek assistance?
So, what if an employee or a friend of yours starts showing physical distress about a recent life incident. How would you approach them and explain that all humans have emotional vulnerability at some point in life?
Does talking about depression and suicide in humans still taboo for you?
These are the questions that need to be asked and barriers that will need to be removed to become a mental health first aider.
Never underestimate the power of a conversation.
About the Author:
Charles Vinoth F is an International HR Business Partner with Mphasis who comes with an experience of 7 yrs in the field of HR.
He holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work with HR specialization from Madras School of Social Work – Egmore, Chennai & A Bachelors Degree in Commerce from Loyola College – Chennai.
HR by profession and an Artist by passion who loves to pause, inspire, and share.
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