Nobody should struggle in silence: hear from our Mental Health First Aiders this Time to Talk Day

3 February 2022

Female care worker sat with a cup of tea

Time to Talk Day, run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, is about creating supportive communities by having conversations about mental health.

We all have mental health, and one in four of us will experience a mental health problem in any given year.

Talking about mental health reduces stigma and creates supportive communities where people can talk openly and feel empowered to ask for help when they need it. 

Working in social care is extremely rewarding, however it can be stressful and emotional at times.

Exemplar Health Care has a team of Mental Health First Aiders, trained by MHFA England, who provide advice and support for their colleagues.

Mental Health First Aiders know how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue. Their training teaches them how to recognise the warning signs of mental ill health, and develop the skills and confidence to approach and support their colleagues.

They’re trained to listen, reassure and respond. They know how to empower people to access the support they need for recovery or successful management of symptoms, which could include self-help books or websites, therapy services, online self-referral or local support groups.

Investing in mental wellbeing at work brings significant benefits: hear from Georgina

This Time to Talk Day, Georgina Collinson, shares her experience of being a Mental Health First Aider and how she supports colleagues at Scotia Heights, where she works.

“Mental health affects one in four of us and needs to be spoken about more often. I’m glad to see that mental health is finally being considered as something we should all take notice of in ourselves and those we care about and work with.

“The Mental Health First Aid training teaches you to guide a person towards appropriate professional help. You learn how to recognise the signs of mental distress and how to provide initial help and to ask about suicide.

“Among other things, the role involves good active listening skills and being non-judgemental, as well as sharing information and encouraging conversations to promote better understanding of mental health.

“At Scotia Heights, where I work, I encourage people to talk more freely about mental health in the hope that it creates a good working environment and this will have a positive effect on their wellbeing.

“As a Mental Health First Aider, colleagues who are experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress come to see me, and with my interaction, I have been able to provide early intervention and support for them.

“I have always considered myself a supporter of good mental health initiatives in the workplace and outside of work. This is why I chose to do the Mental Health First Aid course. I like to have time for people, and I like to listen and help if I can.

“I feel like I can make a real difference in my role. For example, I was recently approached by a staff member who was having financial troubles. This was resulting in them feeling really low and they didn’t want to be at work. They talked about how the pandemic was having an effect on them and their finances.

“I listened to them and we talked about help that was available to them. I signposted them to the Citizens Advice Bureau for their financial problems and also told them about the 24hr advice line that was available to them as an employee of Exemplar Health Care.

“With the staff member’s permission, I facilitated a face to face meeting with their Line Manager to ensure they were fully supported in their role. I also talked about seeing their own GP to help with their low mood and tiredness.

“Over the course of the few months, the colleague returned to work full time again and was happy to be there. They thanked me for my time and said they appreciated the help.

“Just simple things can make what we do worthwhile and the evidence shows that investing in mental wellbeing at work brings significant benefits.”

Nobody should struggle in silence: hear from Debbie

Debbie Chapman is a Mental Health First Aider at Havenmere care home in Immingham. This Time to Talk Day, she shares how becoming a Mental Health First Aider has not only helped her colleagues, but it’s also helped her own personal journey to recovery.

“I’ve worked for Exemplar Health Care for 14 years and for many of those years, I’ve struggled with my mental health in silence. I somehow found the strength and courage to speak to a few close colleagues about my depression and anxieties caused by trauma as a child. The one thing that stood out when I opened up to colleagues was comments like “but you come across as so strong and in control of your life” and “I would have never thought someone like you would be struggling.”

“My response to this was that mental health can affect anybody, and someone who may come across as strong and stable may be, in reality, struggling.

“It was during this time that I saw an email asking colleagues if they’d like to train as a Mental Health First Aider. Instantly, this caught my attention - I wondered how many other colleagues felt the same as myself. I requested to do the course and officially became a Mental Health First Aider in 2019.

“I took on this role so I could make a difference if one of my colleagues needed any support with their mental health. I wanted to provide a point of contact for my colleagues.

“Colleagues can come and have a confidential confirmation and access support in a safe and non-judgemental space.  

“The course has not only given me the confidence to support others, but it’s also helped my own personal journey to recovery.

“During my time as a Mental Health First Aider, I’ve held coffee afternoons for colleagues to get together and talk about mental health. These have been successful and people find them very empowering. Colleagues feel at ease talking about their personal experiences and listening to other experiences.

“These group activities help us to reduce the stigma around mental health. They provide colleagues with reassurance that they’re not alone, and that mental health doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone.

“I’ve also done training about mindfulness, which has been invaluable in my Mental Health First Aider role.

“My advice this Time to Talk Day is that talking is powerful and the first step to recovery, despite it being difficult for many.

“I’ve found that some people still find it difficult to talk about their mental health, or believe that their experience aren’t significant.  

“Without the training, I would not be able to identify, understand and respond to someone struggling with their mental health and these colleagues would remain under the radar.

“I’ve received so much positive feedback from colleagues who I’ve supported with their mental health, ranging from general life issues to suicidal thoughts. To know I’m making a difference to colleagues is amazing. I’m grateful for the support from my Manager and Exemplar Health Care which makes it possible for me to do this role and help others.

“My greatest wish for the future would be that mental health continues to be talked about, especially in the workplace. I hope that people feel confident to open up and receive support from not only professionals, but from their colleagues in a non-judgemental way.

“Nobody should struggle in silence.”

Start a conversation this Time to Talk Day

This Time to Talk Day, we’re encouraging everyone to have a conversation about mental health.

Starting a conversation about mental can be daunting. Time to Change has put together a blog about five ways to start a conversation about mental health

There are also lots of ideas and online resources to help on the Time to Talk Day website

Supporting colleague mental health at Exemplar Health Care

Exemplar Health Care is committed to supporting colleague mental health and wellbeing at work through a range of support and initiatives.

As well as our incredible team of Mental Health First Aiders, our colleagues have access to a 24/7 support and counselling through our award-winning Employee Assistance Programme with Health Assured.

The programme provides confidential support, information and advice about things such as stress, pregnancy, relationships issues, bereavement, legal information, health, debt, landlords, neighbours or nutrition.

If you’re looking for your next role in social care, and want to work for an employer that supports and invests in you, read more about our rewards and benefits and find our latest vacancies.