A few months back I was sitting on a train flicking through a free magazine I'd picked up at Kings Cross Station, when I found my eyes drawn to a short write-up about a mental health first aid course. In much the same way as physical first aid, it teaches you to recognise signs of mental ill health and guide the person towards appropriate support.
As a life coach, positive mental health is something I help clients to achieve, whilst simultaneously working towards various goals and aspirations. I have, from time to time, had concerns that clients may have deeply rooted issues worthy of investigation by a clinician in the relevant field. It has always troubled me, that although I feel well equipped to deal with most issues that arrive during my sessions there may be some clients who needed additional assistance, and how best to address the issue. What piqued my interest in particular, was the discovery of a two day course that could help me identify potential issues and provide immediate support, whilst encouraging them to seek the advice and support of their GP.
Not one to lose time, I called the number and registered my interest, and lo and behold a couple of weeks later I received an email advising of the upcoming date and duly signed up. I must admit I walked down through the morning drizzle to the venue where the course was being held, with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation. I needn't have had any concerns though, as the instructor was warm and friendly, and put us all at ease. Over the next two days I learnt to recognise early signs of mental illness, gain confidence to help someone experiencing mental health issues, provide first aid and help reduce the stigma associated with it.
We were a small group of sixteen diverse individuals from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. In attendance were a variety of local government employees, mental health and HR workers, students, a carer and a few who had personal experience of living with mental health issues. There was lively discussion and with the expert guidance of our tutor we were called upon to share views and experiences within the safe environment.
It was stressed at the outset that all discussion was to be held in strictest confidence and we should all feel comfortable and secure enough to share our personal experiences and to ask however many questions we wished, even if they may sound trivial or naive to ourselves. It felt very much the same as a coaching workshop, and we all shared and questioned without hesitation. We were given scenarios and worked in groups to discuss the best strategies for providing first aid.
I left the course believing that an adapted version of this type of education should be incorporated into educational establishments and workplaces. We all experience mental health on a daily, even hourly basis. We are all sentient human beings and our brains experience thousands of thoughts every day. We are continually undulating on a sliding scale of wellbeing, both positive and negative. For many of us the undulations a relatively small but for others, the peaks and troughs are far greater and harder to scale, and the middle ground is harder to find.
Our emotional wellbeing is as important as our physical wellbeing, especially given the increasing stresses of modern life, and the personal pressure we continually place upon ourselves. None of us are exempt from potential mental health issues, and anxiety and depression have become all too familiar companions. It is estimated that one in four of us will experience mental health issues at some time during our lifetime. Given this statistic it's unbelievable there is still such stigma and discrimination still prevalent today. Although, the course made me realise how woefully inadequate most of us are at noticing the signs within our family, friends and colleagues, and even when we do, we shy away for fear of saying or doing something wrong, I must say that it has also served to highlight how much we all need to be vigilant and take care of each other. Life may be a bumpy ride but it's always good to know that someone has your back.
On both a professional and personal level, the course has instilled confidence in my coaching abilities through the knowledge that I am better prepared to spot the signs in a client seeking to attain their goals, whilst unknowingly, may also require additional assistance for an unrealised a mental health condition. With many charities and initiatives increasing current awareness, my hope is that we will all feel comfortable talking, sharing and helping each other very soon.