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  • Writer's pictureMaria Varallo

How to prioritise the Mental Health First Aiders

Many Mental Health First Aiders and wellbeing champions feel isolated and overwhelmed by the conversations they are having with colleagues and staff members who are struggling. Their time is often underestimated and the real time it takes including recording or 'parking it' and returning to focus on work is underestimated too.


The key challenges for mental health and wellbeing leads are: - 


1.    The responsibility and worry that goes with the role were not expected to be so high. For example, worrying that the response given was correct after a difficult conversation, or worrying it was just not enough. 


2.    The uncertainty of not knowing what the next call or the next chat is going to be about causes anxiety after some experience in the role. This can be compounded by having no one to debrief with afterward, however, we know some companies have excellent in-house support and supervision.  


3.    The worry about those who have confided and shared with us, then the follow-up conversations and check-ins are distracting and get in the way of work. Although done with a big heart and well-meaning of course, but it quickly becomes clear that it takes time to refocus back to work tasks. It's very difficult to go from a serious discussion with someone confiding in you and then get straight back to work. 


4.    Stress and pressure builds because more time is needed than planned or predicted, and it is hard to predict such a need. Recording takes longer than anticipated and supervision, support or facilitated network meetings are few and far between.


Some companies have been quick and innovative, creating their own in-house wellbeing support networks or bringing in external support, like ourselves, meeting the need for CPD, learning, and emotional support. This is an area that most employee assistance programs don’t provide help with, our feedback showed that most people are reluctant to use an EAP due to it being functional, not simple or quick enough and not personal. 


Sourcing the right support that offers personal and professional development, mutual support, plus sharing best practices will develop expertise not only for the individual but also for the organisation as a whole. Sometimes this means creating the opportunity and acknowledging and appreciating every member of the team.


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