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Reflections of a mental health first aider.

Posting date: 25 Aug 2023

Tomorrow is World Mental Health Day - a moment when we reflect on life, the trials and the tribulations, how those impact each one of us, and what you and I can do to guard our own mental wellbeing and, just as importantly, recognise the anguish of those who are being challenged and tested in this area of their health. Moreover, it is a time to consider stepping up to the opportunity of offering our own comfort and encouragement, as well as being that guiding light towards professional help when this is required.


Giving back is often the best recipe for moving forward when tragedy strikes. It means our lives can become a lighthouse of help and hope to others, especially during challenging times like these.

The journey of life is far too fragile and precious to allow opportunities, to give back, to pass us by. I always maintain a philosophy that our real legacy will be the footprint we leave behind on each and every day of our lives. What a legacy that would be if that footprint, one day, was one of compassion, kindness and care!


When I was a just a child of four years old, I experienced a potentially persisting, debilitating illness and, after being on life-support for a couple of weeks, there was a real possibility that I would suffer life-changing consequences. I eventually made it through. However, the road to full recovery was a long and tortuous one - a battle-field of challenge, but also resilience and resolve. And so, over the years, I realised that giving back is the best recipe for moving forward and for leaving that footprint behind – a sign that we have made a difference, however small that may be.


Each and every one of us has mental health - good or, perhaps, not so great. It is a pillar of our unique character and composition, and an intrinsic element of our overall wellbeing. But from time to time that pillar, not only in our own lives but also for those around us, is battered and bruised by life’s brutal events and by the storms we encounter along the way.


I am fortunate to work for an organisation that not only recognises the importance of acknowledging the challenges that come with impaired mental health, but which also invests both in the present as well as a future where health and wellbeing is, and will be, a priority for all its people. Furthermore, it appreciates the value and strength which all of that that brings to the business as a whole.


Around three and half years ago, when Legal & General asked if anyone was interested in being trained as a Mental Health First Aider, the door marked ‘opportunity to make a difference’ was wide open and, needless to say, I grabbed it with both hands. I subsequently attended an intense, but truly thought-provoking, two-day training course. There, we were given information about some of the primary mental health disorders. Additionally, we were taught the skills of approaching a person requiring or requesting help, and assisting them in the event of an immediate mental health crisis. We were also trained on how to just listen and talk to someone without judgment or discrimination, how to give support and encourage the person to seek help (both professional and through other sources), and to then signpost them to further, appropriate, support structures and networks.


It’s a role that may, to some, sound fairly insignificant. However, when the journey of our lives becomes barren and desolate, the footprint embedded in the sand by a Mental Health First Aider may just be that guiding light towards help and recovery for the one who is crying out to be heard – but who has, perhaps so far, been unheard.


Being a Mental Health First Aider also provides an opportunity to look back and see one’s own footprint, not only in the lives of those around us but in the society in which we live - and to know that we have indeed made a difference, however small.


So, this World Mental Health Day, as we focus on the global theme of ‘Mental Health for all – Greater investment, greater access’, let each one of us contemplate how we, both individually and collectively, can contribute towards that cause - and perhaps even consider the personal goal of becoming a Mental Health First Aider.


MHFA (England) offer a range of courses to get you started: (https://mhfaengland.org)

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