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What we learned in Mental Health First Aid

Guest Blog by Jo Phaure- Twining Enterprise are a charity supporting people with mental health issues into employment.

Along with many of my Twining Enterprise colleagues I attended Twining Enterprise’s Mental Health First Aid course held on 7 and 8 February and learnt a huge amount which will enable me to better recognise and support colleagues with mental health needs.

In the two days we covered a wide range of topics in particular helping us understand the full range of mental health conditions that people might be affected by and giving us the tools to respond even in the most severe cases.

For me the single most powerful learning exercise in the training session was when we did some group work with someone using a script to demonstrate the voices associated with psychosis whilst the person having the script read to them tried to engage with another person in a normal way. It was so illustrative of how hearing voices would affect your behaviour. For example it became much harder to respond to complicated questions. I was able to maintain a simple yes/no response but when I tried to formulate longer responses it was very hard to ignore the colleague reading the script in my ear. I found myself pausing, laughing, saying things triggered by the colleague acting as the ‘voices’ and for me most surprisingly it completely changed my body language. I became tense and focused and found it helpful to slap my own thighs to keep my focus.

  • Speak more slowly and allow longer spaces for the person to respond.

  • Remain calm even if they became agitated.

  •  Ignore any out of the ordinary physical gestures or statements that didn’t make sense.

  • Focus on doing everything I can to allow the person experiencing a mental health crisis to speak so that they can tell me what they need and how I can help them.

My colleagues enjoyed it to, discussing a sensitive subject like mental illness can be hard going but as you can see from these pictures and comments the MHFA course helped make it all very accessible. Here’s some of their feedback and comments:

"Thank you! This was very helpful in consolidating my understanding. It was lovely to have space to reflect on all the areas we covered."

"I found the course informative and interesting on an intellectual level but it also moved me emotionally and offered a compassionate insight into mental health issues – it also reminded me of the importance of self -care."

"In particular with this training course the expertise, experience and attitudes of the trainers was vital mental health can be a challenging subject which affects at least 1 in 4 of us."

" Our trainers were:Engaging, positive, inclusive instructors made the experience enjoyable"

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