Mental Health Training

Mental Health First Aid Training: Putting Skills into Practice, By Jane McNeice

Posted by on 22 Jun, 2016 in Mental Health | 0 comments

Mental Health First Aid Training: Putting Skills into Practice, By Jane McNeice

Asking questions about suicide and suicidal ideation isn’t easy, whether you’re a clinical professional, or a helping friend. There are common misconceptions about questioning someone about suicide, and most people don’t feel confident or sufficiently equipped to do so.

Laura from South Yorkshire attended a Mental Health First Aid training course in May 2013. She decided to re-take the course as a personal refresher in 2015 due to her then work involving the support of vulnerable people and working in a childcare setting. Laura is also a mum of two infants and has experienced mental health problems herself, including anxiety, and symptoms of post-partum psychosis immediately following the birth of her first child, though the latter was un-diagnosed at the time.

Laura had heard about the Mental Health First Aid training course from a relative and felt it would be beneficial for both her own mental health, and her work with young people. She hoped that the training would enable her to recognise the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and know how to support someone who was having difficulties.

“Prior to the training I wouldn’t have felt confident supporting someone else. Since undergoing the course I have directly supported two people with poor mental health. On one occasion I suspected there might be a suicide risk. Because of the training I knew that I needed to ask directly whether the person was suicidal. I went ahead and asked the question, which previously I don’t think I would have felt able to do, as I might have thought this would have caused them further harm. The person, a friend of mine, did feel suicidal and I encouraged them to access their GP as soon as possible. They did so and are now receiving psychotherapy from the local Mental Health Access Team.” 

Laura has since gone on to attend the Youth Mental Health First Aid training course and feels prepared to use these skills if needed. Laura believes that,

“Everyone should be trained in Mental Health First Aid, just like physical first aid. In particular those working with vulnerable people, young people, and for staff so they can support their colleagues.”

“The course has also helped me to be more aware of my own and my families mental health, and how I can encourage self-help strategies.”

When asked what were the three most valuable things Laura has taken from the course:

1) ALGEE (the MHFA Action Plan we use when applying Mental Health First Aid to others);

2) The film clips and how they helped me to understand and apply the knowledge I had learned; and

3) How you need to ask and be direct in finding out whether someone feels suicidal.


Suicide Warning Signs

The high-risk warning signs of suicide include:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill themselves
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • Actively looking for ways to kill themselves, such as stockpiling tablets

Other warning signs include:

  • Complaining of feelings of hopelessness
  • Having episodes of sudden rage and anger
  • Acting recklessly and engaging in risky activities with an apparent lack of concern about the consequences
  • Talking about feeling trapped, such as saying they can’t see any way out of their current situation
  • Self-harm – including misusing drugs or alcohol, or using more than they usually do
  • Noticeably gaining or losing weight due to a change in their appetite
  • Becoming increasingly withdrawn from friends, family and society in general
  • Appearing anxious and agitated
  • Are unable to sleep or they sleep all the time
  • Have sudden mood swings – a sudden lift in mood after a period of depression could indicate they have made the decision to attempt suicide
  • Talking and acting in a way that suggests their life has no sense of purpose
  • Losing interest in most things, including their appearance
  • Putting their affairs in order, such as sorting out possessions or making a will

(NHS Choices, 2015)

If you want to become a Mental Health First Aider, or to train your staff in Mental Health First Aid, you can find further details and course dates here. Mind Matters can also deliver this course flexibly in house over two days.


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