What is Mental Health First Aid?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices… Everyone has mental health.
The term mental illness covers a very broad range of mental health problems which can involve changes to our thoughts, emotions, behaviours and relationships with others. Mental illnesses are associated with distress and problems functioning in our day-to-day lives (social, work, family etc.)… Mental illness is treatable.
WHAT IS FIRST AID FOR MENTAL HEALTH?
First aid for mental health is the initial support provided to a person experiencing a mental health problem until professional help is received or until the crisis is resolved.
The aims of first aid for mental health:
• Preserve life where a person could be a danger to themselves or others
• Alleviate suffering by providing immediate comfort and support
• Prevent the condition from developing into a more serious problem
• Promote recovery of good mental health by signposting and obtaining professional support
ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE first aider FOR MENTAL HEALTH
• A point of contact for anyone experiencing a mental health problem
• Identifying the signs and symptoms of mental ill-health
• Start supportive conversations
• Listen non-judgementally and provide reassurance
• Assess the risk of self-harm and suicide
• Signpost and encourage professional support
• Reduce mental health stigma
• Summon for the appropriate emergency services if necessary
• Maintain confidentiality
THE IMPACT OF MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS
• Day-to-day: Mental ill-health can affect many areas of your life and have an impact on your family
• Physical health: Mental illness can impair your ability to protect and develop your physical well-being
• Work: Obtaining or maintaining a job may be more difficult when symptoms of a mental health condition make it harder for you to function normally
• Education: Studying may be more difficult when living with a mental health condition and often students do not reach their true potential
• Driving: Mental health conditions themselves do not stop people from driving. However, certain medications that the person may be taking will influence the decision
• Parenting & children: Mental illness can affect relationships and family life. Certain medications can also have an affect on pregnancy • Stigma: Stigma can create barriers for people to seek help for their mental health condition and can make their situation much worse
MENTAL HEALTH STIGMA
Stigma – a set of prejudicial attitudes and values, which may lead to discriminatory behaviours.
In the context of mental health, there are two main types of stigma:
• Social stigma: Includes the negative attitudes and discriminatory behaviours that society or particular individuals hold towards those with mental health problems
• Self-stigma: This is where people with mental health problems believe what is being said about their condition and agree with their viewpoints
THE EFFECTS OF STIGMA
There are a number of adverse effects caused by stigma, including:
• Fear of disclosing to peers that you have a problem
• Reluctance to seek professional support
• Victimisation, harassment and physical violence
• Difficulties finding employment and taking part in activities
• Lack of understanding from family and friends
• Develop a practice of self-stigmatisation
COPING WITH STIGMA
No individual should have to tolerate others treating them differently because of a mental health condition. Here are some points to help combat stigma:
• Seek professional help - don't let the fear of being ‘labelled’ with a mental illness stop you
• Show your family and friends reliable information to improve their understanding
• Don’t equate yourself with your condition
• Join a support group to talk about stigma and relate to others
• Organise local campaigns or get involved with national campaigns
MENTAL HEALTH STATISTICS
One in four adults experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any given year.
• 1/2 of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14
• Poor mental health carries an economic and social cost of £105 billion a year in England and £10.8 billion a year in Scotland
• In 2018 in Great Britain, there were 595,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety leading to 15.4 million working days lost