The Importance of Mental Health First Aid

Mental health awareness has never been more crucial, as we mark Mental Health Awareness Week 2024, it's essential to highlight the significance of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA).

What is Mental Health First Aid?

Just as we say mental health is as important and serious as physical health, we can apply the same principle to first aid. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a crucial and potentially life-saving training programme designed to equip individuals with the necessary tools and knowledge to identify, understand, and assist someone experiencing a mental health issue or crisis. With that principle in mind, it is also the crux of many of the projects being designed under the British Asian Trust’s Mental Health programme.

MHFA training covers a broad spectrum of mental health conditions, ranging from anxiety and depression to psychosis and substance misuse. It empowers individuals without clinical backgrounds to provide initial support through non-judgmental listening and guidance. Moreover, it equips them with essential skills to effectively guide people towards professional help and support their journey to recovery.

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Why Do We Need Mental Health First Aid?

MHFA  has been proven to save lives, so businesses worldwide must embed MHFA training into every office, school and factory. The British Asian Trust runs multiple projects in Pakistan and Bangladesh, making MHFA available to as many people as possible.

MHFA in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, mental health poses a significant risk, particularly in women. Across the country, women make up 80% of the ready-made-garment workforce, and research found that these female workers endure mental distress, including stress, anxiety, restlessness, and even thoughts of suicide, stemming from the intricate balance between their employment, childcare responsibilities, and societal roles within their community.

This project aims to establish community-based mental health assistance within the workplace by training key personnel within these facilities as lay counsellors, empowering them to offer support and guidance to their colleagues. The goal is to enhance the mental well-being of 2,500 ready-made garments (RMG) factory workers spanning five factories and mills.

MHFA in Pakistan

Similarly, in Pakistan, suicide is the fourth-leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29. The British Asian Trust’s school mental health project has trained over 160 teachers from 40 schools to identify fundamental mental health issues within the classroom, provide support, and make referrals.

Having projects like these and training mental health first aiders in businesses, charities, teams, and schools is vital. It gives individuals the knowledge to support their colleagues and helps create a more inclusive, supportive, and productive work environment.

 How Can MHFA Prevent Serious Mental Health Issues?

MHFA  plays a critical role in proactively identifying and addressing mental health issues, serving as a preventive measure against their escalation into more severe conditions. By equipping individuals with the knowledge and skills to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health issues, MHFA facilitates timely support and guide. Early detection is essential as it provides opportunities for interventions that can halt or slow the progression of mental health issues, potentially preventing them from worsening.

Again, it can save a life.

MHFA is an indispensable tool in preventing severe mental health issues. MHFA empowers society to address mental health challenges through education, early detection, and support, promoting a healthier and more resilient population.
Just as every business is required to have a trained first aider, we should make it a necessity for every organisation to train personnel in mental health first aid. Remember, mental well-being is just as important as physical well-being.

Written in collaboration with Molly Roberts at PMAC. PMAC specialise in bespoke mental health training for non-profits and organisations across the globe.