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From stigma to support

In recent years, there has been an increase in the conversation surrounding mental health including in the workplace. Despite this progress, many workplaces still struggle to create environments where mental health is openly discussed and prioritised. Normalising mental health conversations in the workplace is a crucial step towards fostering supportive, productive, and inclusive work cultures.

Two strategies that help normalise discussions about mental health in the workplace:

  1. Compassionate Leadership: Leaders play a pivotal role in shaping workplace culture. When leaders openly address their own mental health challenges or express support for mental health initiatives, it sends a powerful message to employees that discussing mental health is acceptable. Find out more about Compassionate leadership or our training courses. 

  2. Education and Awareness: Workshops, training sessions, or discussing mental health in team meetings help to educate employees. Signing up for awareness raising days and providing information and available resources for support all aids in breaking down stigma and enhancing understanding and empathy. Focusing on Education and Awareness one way you can make a difference is by training employees to become mental health first aiders. They are like the superheroes of the workplace, stepping in to support colleagues' mental health when it's needed most and importantly promoting mental health awareness.

Unfortunately, I have seen organisations train MHFAiders® and then feel that is the answer to everything. It needs to be part of a mental health strategy and bringing mental health first aiders into the mix successfully takes planning and TLC. Here's how to do it in a warm, supportive way:

  1. Choosing Potential First Aiders: Look around for those empathetic souls who are great listeners and genuinely care about others' wellbeing. Also, let people decide if the role is right for them, share information about the training and commitment. Maybe run a session explaining it with a Q&A. Picking people who have an interest, and the capacity is 1st key step to successful implementation.

  2. Clarifying Their Role: Make sure your mental health first aiders know exactly what they're supposed to do. Lay out their responsibilities, boundaries, and reporting procedures (all conversations are confidential unless a risk to live) But you may wish to collate anonymous statistics. And ensure their MHFA role is part of your regular check-ins/supervision.

  3. Create Supportive Team: Set systems up so MHFAiders® can support each other, develop the role and share knowledge. This could include regular group catch-ups, separate teams channel, and a folder on your drive to share resources.

  4. Spread the Word: Let everyone know about your mental health first aiders. Share the good news in company newsletters, on the intranet, or during team meetings. Make sure everyone knows how to reach out to them for support and assure them that it's totally confidential and okay to reach out for support.

  5. Creating a Supportive Vibe: Cultivate an atmosphere where it's okay to talk about mental health. Encourage people to reach out when they're struggling and remind them that getting help is a brave move, not a weak one. Make sure everyone knows where to find mental health resources, both within and outside the company. Encourage leaders to talk about their mental health as part of culture change.

  6. Continual Learning and Growth: Mental health is always evolving, so keep your first aiders updated. Offer them chances to learn new skills, attend workshops, and connect with others in the field. The more they know, the better they can help out their colleagues.

  7. Encouraging Self-Care: Remind your first aiders to take care of themselves, too. They are doing important work, but they need to recharge their own batteries sometimes. Encourage them to set boundaries and seek support when they need it. They can lead by example and support others to prioritise their self care.

  8. Seeking Feedback: Check in with your team regularly to see how things are going with the mental health first aiders. Ask for feedback—what's working, what's not, and what could be even better. Use that feedback to fine-tune your support systems and keep improving.

By bringing MHFAiders® into the mix, you're creating a workplace where people feel seen, heard, and supported. Remember, supporting mental health isn't just good for individuals—it's good for the whole organisation.

It is not the whole answer but an important part of the puzzle to support workplace wellbeing allowing everyone to thrive.

Find out more about our MHFA training

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