23rd March 2021 ff15

Mental Health First Aid – Joy Thomas

Mental Health First Aid for England (MHFA) now offer a virtual course in which you can learn essential skills for the workplace and for every day. This online course qualifies you as a Mental Health First Aider, giving you; an in-depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing, practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues, confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress, enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening and the knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to further support.


I’ve experienced mental health issues within my own family. A few years ago, my beloved brother Martin took his own life aged just 50. The ripples from such an impactful incident never fade. If I can make a small difference to one person in the future, my training will have been worthwhile. I can’t save my brother now, I know that. Maybe this is his legacy. I’m now confident to intervene in a crisis, I feel confident being an active listener, I understand how mental illness disguises itself.

Poor mental health is not always as serious as what happened to my brother. It can be a grey cloud that hangs around for weeks on end, something unexplainable. It doesn’t have to be triggered by a tragedy or huge life event. Every day things can pile up.

We all have mental health, so how do you differentiate depression from being fed-up? I have learnt that everyone has fed-up days, maybe even a few in a row where you feel hiding under the bedcovers might be the best option. A continued low mood over weeks, not days, might just need a little bit of mental health care. Your GP can be the best place to start, they are the conduit for all healthcare channels. There are some fantastic support functions for talking therapies these days. All free and accessible by everyone. I have used some resources myself. They aren’t’ all right for everyone, you just need to find the one that works for you.

Better mental health is good for everyone and recognising this is good for society. Of course, we all want a society where everyone can thrive and where there should be zero stigma surrounding mental health. It should be openly discussed and supported.

The Mental Health First Aid programme began in Australia in 2000 and has since evolved into a global movement that is delivered by an active community of licensed providers in 24 countries. To date, over 4 million people worldwide have been trained.


MHFA for England has an impressive mission to train one in ten people in mental health awareness and skills.


Mental Health First Aid training came to England in 2007. The Department of Health: National Institute of Mental Health in England (NIMHE) developed and launched the programme as part of a national approach to improve public mental health. MHFA have trained over 400,000 people since 2009. Mental Health Aware, MHFA Champions and Mental Health First Aiders are a powerful network of people who are actively breaking barriers, setting up new initiatives and reducing stigma around mental health.

Mental illness is the largest single source of burden of disease in the UK. One in four people experience a diagnosable mental health condition each year – that’s a quarter of our population who need the right support. Yet 70-75% of people with diagnosable mental illness receive no treatment at all!


1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year

72 million working days lost each year

98% of teachers said they have contact with pupils who they believe are experiencing mental health issues


The Mental Health First Aid course I undertook earlier in 2021 gave me some key life skills. It was an intensive (and emotionally exhausting) 2 days and it required Zoom-style workshops (with active participation) and homework.

Key Learnings;

  • Challenging the language we use around mental health,
  • Exploring our frame of reference and the stigma attached to mental health, from both personal and societal perspectives,
  • Helping others understand what good mental health looks like,
  • Exploring the factors that can have an impact on your own mental health,
  • Looking at how you can support yourself and others with self-care, giving people skills to influence their own mental health and help prevent mental ill health,
  • How to intervene (including in a crisis), reassure and signpost to further support,
  • Learning about diagnosable mental health conditions, what unwell looks like and how to spot these signs in yourself or others,
  • What to do if you think someone is unwell and the steps to take for early intervention,
  • What recovery from mental illness looks like and looking forward.

You don’t have to complete the full 2-day First Aid course, there are shorter courses including Mental Health Aware which is a half-day. This course will teach you to understand what mental health is, how to challenge stigma and common mental health issues. You will have an introduction to looking after your own mental health and maintaining wellbeing and you will gain confidence to support others who may be experiencing mental health issues.

You can find more information of courses on the MHFA website https://mhfaengland.org/

I can be reached on WhatsApp on 07956 372684 or joylorrainethomas@gmail.com for anyone that needs someone.