A Liverpool housing association has made an extra effort to support mental health by encouraging one-on-three of its staff to become mental health first aiders.
A total of 44 employees at Cobalt Housing have signed up for the initiative and taken a two-day training course , the organization says. This has put it ahead of the curve set by Mental Health First Aid England (MHFAE), which aims to train every one-on-10 people in mental health awareness and skills.
“We recognise that our people managers and colleagues have a complex and varied role,” said Alison Ramsay, head of HR at Cobalt Housing. “So we wanted to give them the best toolkit to support themselves, teammates and tenants.
“Mental Health First Aid complements and enhances our wellbeing strategy. The course was offered to staff on a purely voluntary basis and to date we have trained one in three of our workforce and over 60% of our line managers in Mental Health First Aid skills.”
Holly Clark, director at Be Well Learning, one of the organisations helping MHFAE deliver its goal, said: “Team Cobalt really buck the trend, training a significant number of their workforce as mental health first aiders as part of their whole organisational approach to mental health – improving standards for a mentally healthy workplace, improving mental health awareness and encouraging conversations to ensure everybody has easy access to support when they need it.
“It is wonderful that Cobalt Housing are putting the mental health of their tenants and staff first. Investing considerable time, effort and money into training 44 members of staff in vital skills. Enabling them to recognise the early signs and symptoms of mental ill health in others and in themselves, and know how and where to signpost them to further support.”
The two-day course developed by Mental Health First Aid England (MFHAE) gives participants:
- An in-depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing
- Practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues
- Confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress
- Enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening
- Knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to further support – whether that’s self-help resources, through their employer, the NHS, or a mix
The course discusses a wide spectrum of mental health issues, including forms of psychosis, depression, self-harm, depression and anxiety, providing staff with skills and knowledge to support tenants and colleagues, and helping them to seek professional support from a relevant professional body where possible.
The aim is to promote open discussion and education on mental health and removing the stigma attached.
Karen Palmer, Cobalt’s health and safety manager, said: “This course has really changed my confidence in talking about and supporting someone with mental health issues, and it’s great to work for an organisation that considers good mental health for its workforce and tenants as a priority.
“One of the key things for me was the fact that support and diagnosis is what makes the difference between someone being able to have a quality of life or not, so if by doing this we can help more tenants and colleagues to seek the right professional support and help to reduce the stigma associated with it, it’s well worth it.”
Main Image: Some of Cobalt Housing’s mental health first aiders