By Legal Futures’ Associates Casedo 
It’s time to talk day and to acknowledge that I wanted to talk about Mental Health First Aid.
Have you ever attended a course that changed your perspective? CPD is such a staple in our professional lives but it rarely provides us with a revolutionised mindset.
In my previous role, I was lucky enough to undergo the Scottish mental health first aid (MHFA) qualification and it turned a general interest in the mental health of the profession into a passion.
What is MHFA?
The first MHFA course originated in Australia in 2000 and has now been imported and adopted by 25 countries across the world with the global aim to create a community where everyone has improved mental health literacy and basic first aid skills to support people with mental health problems.
It is based on the premise of physical first aid. A concept that we much more familiar with and understand that it furnishes you with basic skills to keep someone alive until the initial assistance is provided, or a qualified medical professional gets involved. Similarly, MHFA provides a working understanding of mental health conditions and their presentation and provides a step-by-step guide to assist. A simple formula known as ALGEE:
- Assess for risk of suicide or harm
- Listen nonjudgmentally
- Give reassurance and information
- Encourage appropriate professional help
- Encourage self-help and other support strategies
There are over 4 million MHFA trained individuals in the world now and there is always room for a few more.
Why is MHFA more important than ever?
Everyone has mental health. Similar to our physical health, we are encouraged to do certain things to improve how we feel and deal with the opportunities and threats that life provides us with. It is no secret that the Coronavirus and the impact it has had on how we live, work, and interact has heightened the need for additional mental health support for everyone. We have all been affected by the knock-on effects of COVID19 in different ways and at altering levels of intensity from the introduction of quarantine restrictions, working from home mandates, furlough, home schooling redundancy, grief, and isolation. The need to speak openly and freely about how we feel is much more essential now than it has ever been before. Talking about how we feel is a great way to acknowledge and understand our feelings and think about the necessary steps to improving our general happiness and satisfaction with life.
What can you do?
Without the need for mental health qualifications, we can all try to facilitate a truly honest conversation with our colleagues, staff, friends, and family. Ask how they feel and don’t be afraid to ask them to dig a bit deeper if they respond with ‘fine’. Sometimes, when provided with a free and honest response, you might not know what to say. That is completely normal and should be acknowledged. It is much more important for people to know that you are listening. If you are not sure what to do next, just ask. How can I support you going forward? Do you want to check in with me whenever you feel like this?
If your firm or organisation has a nominated physical first aider, why not invest in the training of some mental health first aiders? Already have MHFA? show that you’re dedicated to placing both on an even platform and appoint the same amount of both types of first aider within your organisation. Also, make sure that your staff know about them and how to access their confidential assistance in all regular staff communications. It is also worthwhile to promote the availability of other support lines such as employee assistance provider helplines etc.
I feel that so many people (especially in the legal sector) experience shame around anxiety and stress that MHFA support may even operate better in our current remote working conditions. There is no need to meet someone else’s eye over a telephone call or Slack conversation.
If the MHFA training doesn’t appeal or it is cost prohibitive for your organisation, it is worthwhile to note the existence of LawCare  and the various other charities that can help.
LawCare is free and anonymous support resource available to everyone in the legal sphere from the secretary to the senior partner. You can call them direct on 0800 279 6888 or use their chatbot facility if you don’t want to talk but still want to share how you’re feeling. Even if it’s not for you directly, you can share information about its existence to staff, colleagues, and friends.
There are also so many other mental health charities that exist solely to help people who need it. This is far from an exhaustive list, but it shows that people are willing to listen if you take the time to talk.
Mind  0300 123 3393
Campaign against living miserably  0800 58 58 58
Shout 85258  Don’t fancy speaking? Text 85258
Fancy the MHFA course? Here’s some links to get you started.