Mental Health Training

What is the right mental health training course for me: Understanding the differences across mental health training courses, by Jane McNeice

Posted by on 21 Sep, 2020 in Mental Health |

What is the right mental health training course for me: Understanding the differences across mental health training courses, by Jane McNeice

Mind Matters has on many occasion been approached by clients looking to train managers in mental health, with a specific request for Mental Health First Aid training. There’s nothing intrinsically problematic with that at all, unless you are looking for an outcome which MHFA was not specifically designed to achieve. For this reason, it’s important for clients, commissioners, and buyers to understand how mental health training courses differ and what might be the most suitable course, or courses, for your community (workforce or otherwise) and the different needs within these.

Mental Health First Aid courses are a specific group of training products developed, licensed, and intellectually owned by MHFA England. The MHFA England courses are designed to be delivered in England only, however there are several other countries that have developed their own MHFA products designed to meet their unique needs and services. As this is the case, MHFA is regarded as a globally recognised product, originating in Australia. MHFA courses are evidence based and robust, and anyone over the age of 16 in England can be trained in these. The aim of Adult MHFA and Online MHFA is to capacity build delegates to support another adult/s mental health, and to support delegates own mental health. MHFA is designed to teach first responder level support, to provide the skills and knowledge for early intervention and how to respond in crisis situations, much like physical first aid does. MHFA England and its Instructors are in no way attempting to train delegates to be therapists when they deliver MHFA courses, much like a physical first aid course does not teach people to be clinical professionals e.g. a nurse. That does not mean that a clinically qualified person cannot undertake an MHFA course, we have on many occasion trained counsellors and therapists, nurses, and other clinical professionals in Mental Health First Aid. It simply enhances their existing skills, adding a first aid response, and can corroborate any other prior learning they’ve undertaken. MHFA is not exclusively for Managers, or for workplaces, it’s for any type of community in England. It is no more specific to workplaces than physical first is. In addition to the aforementioned Adult MHFA course, MHFA England have a variety of training products tailored to different groups e.g. Young People, and Armed Forces. As this is the case, you could potentially offer MHFA training to anyone in a workplace or community. Various models can be used to disperse Mental Health First Aiders throughout any given setting e.g.  Ratio and percentage models e.g. matching numbers to those of physical first aiders to give parity in a specific setting, departmental, locality dispersed e.g. training community development workers or local counsellors. There is no right or wrong way to achieve a ‘whole community (business or otherwise) approach’ to mental health, there’s just a right way for that community. This will be influenced by community need, resources such as time and budgets, and many other variables. For many communities, achieving a ‘whole community approach’ or ‘whole business approach’ to mental health can be, and often is, a work in progress.

When a business client approaches us wanting to train Managers in mental health we are keen to understand the needs of those managers. The role of the ‘Manager’ in the workplace has changed significantly in the last few decades and most managers now appreciate that a part of their role includes supporting employees mental health, management of absence and presenteeism, supporting good mental health within the workplace, supporting those experiencing mental distress, and meeting neuro-diverse and other employee needs. These tasks no longer remain sole responsibility of Human Resources or Occupational Health, but rather a collaboration of efforts towards supporting workplace health goals and to achieving the best from the workforce within.

In the field of manager training in mental health there are lots of products to choose from, a variety of licensed evidence based accredited products, and from a variety of providers. They have various merits and selling points, with some overlap, and it may depend on the specific learning needs of the manager/s concerned as to what might be a best fit product for them. It could be that they need to have more knowledge and confidence around having mental health conversations, raise their mental health awareness more generally, or to understand more about reasonable adjustments – what defines them as ‘reasonable’ and how they can objectively meet this, through to systems and tools which support good mental health and assist Managers in supporting this. Some managers simply want a general understanding of mental health and to have a chance to practice their new learning on fictional case studies in a safe, non-judgemental, and supported learning environment. Mind Matters has its own one day Training for Managers in Mental Health course, and also offers the i-ACT (for Positive Mental Health) Manager training. We can also work with organisations such as Mindful Employer to deliver their ‘Being a Mindful Manager’ course. Courses vary in duration from half to full day training, and new Manager training products are emerging all of the time to meet workplace needs.

Some of the courses which Mind Matters offers are longer in duration and more intense in content, an example would be our 2 day Adult or Youth MHFA courses, or the 4 session Online versions of these. Less intense versions include the Youth and Adult Mental Health Aware courses, which are 3 and 4 hours respectively. The 2 day ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) course is also a more intense course. Not everyone in a community wants to learn at this depth, and for lots of different reasons. For example, a person may not wish to volunteer for a specific role such as ‘Mental Health First Aider’, ‘Mental Health Champion’, or ‘Life Assisting Care Giver’ in their community. Some people may be apprehensive around the subject of mental health and may need support to overcome personal barriers to accessing any type of mental health course. Some people simply want to dip their toe in the water to see if they find it interesting and valuable enough to learn more. Others may find there is an emerging need in their community to focus on supporting in crisis situations such as meeting the needs of a person with thoughts of suicide, and really want to understand how they need to response in those situations. Within this area there are also different types of courses that meet those objectives, and various support roles someone may wish to adopt e.g. Suicide Alert Helper, or Life Assisting Care-Giver. These courses also vary in duration from 3 hours through to 2 days.

Online versus face-to-face: Most of us will have witnessed and been part of a shift from attending face-to-face meetings and training, to accessing both online. Some organisations, depending on risk assessment and whether they have been able to achieve effective safety practices, may have a mix of both. As a training company Mind Matters and its Trainers love being in the training room with delegates. We appreciate the dynamic of human connection, the energy in the room, and a greater opportunity to move about rather than sedentary delivery. Like many, we too have accepted a significant change to the way we work, and we’ve had to adjust and rapidly improve our IT skills in line with our current offering. We’ve adapted well, and feedback to date suggests that whilst some delegates would prefer a face-to-face delivery, many are appreciating just how well they can learn and experience mental health training online. We’ve had some great feedback and now appreciate the flexible approach to delivery that did not exist pre-Covid. We are fully aware of the greater need for mental health training and creating first response helpers to support those in need right now and it’s great that we can still do this through the help of modern technology.

If you or your community (workplace or other), would like to ensure you adopt the most effective course/s to meet your mental health learning needs, and the needs of your community, please get in touch for an informal discussion so that Mind Matters can tailor a program that meets these.