There is lots of talk in the media about mental health first aid. With University students now into the swing of the new year they are especially vulnerable. For some, the pressure of being away from home, new routines, course pressures and new friendships, can prove especially difficult. It isn’t just teenagers that are vulnerable either. Whilst numbers of individuals with mental health illnesses aren’t increasing, Mind believes with the pressures of modern life, people find it harder to cope. Sadly reports of self harm, and suicidal thoughts are increasing.
What is Mental health first aid?
A mental health first aider is someone specifically trained to listen, observe symptoms and to get help and support. Just like traditional first aiders they do not diagnose, and it is important to remember they are not trained therapists.
Just like conventional first aiders, the mental health first aider is there to “buy time” by offering support until more formal help is available.
Why is it so important?
The charity Mind reports that 1:4 people will experience mental health issues at some point. With mental health issues, people tend to hide how they feel. Often they put on a “brave” face and it isn’t apparent they need help until in a crisis. The aim is to ensure people can access this help, before they end up feeling as if they are in a dark hole.
Individuals do report a stigma being attached to mental health. If you had an infection or a broken bone you would consult a doctor for treatment. If you experience mental health issues, you need to seek the right treatment in order to “heal.” On occasion the symptoms may appear gradually, so it may not be obvious to the individual they are struggling with mental health issues.
It is reported by Mental Health First aid England that 78% of students report mental health concerns. Less than half of these people will seek help.
It is important to know, many educational establishments now have trained mental health first aiders. It is important to get help early so you don’t feel you are “drowning. ” If you are trying to support someone with mental health issues, here are a few things you can do:
- Listen: Don’t think you have to offer answers. Listening to them, shows you value their feelings, and want to be there for them.
- Ask: People with mental health issues know what they want, so ask them how you can help.
- Practical Help: Don’t be afraid to offer practical solutions. The person may not feel well enough to go to the shops, to run simple errands or make appointments. Offer to do this for them.
- Stay in touch: We all have busy lives, and sometimes its hard to stay in touch with people who always decline your invites. However, the individual would probably love to meet up with you, they just don’t feel able to right now. Keep letting them know you would love to see them, but there is no pressure and you will be there when they are ready.
- Get professional help: Contact the GP for help and advice. If the person is in the middle of a crisis you may need to call 999 in order to get emergency help. 111 can also be used to signpost you to other agencies who may be able to help.
The two organisations mentioned above, also offer some great advice.