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The value of mental health first aid training - By Jai Frampton

Monday 10th October was World Mental Health Day, so we felt it was a good opportunity to spend some time talking about the work ILX has been doing to help support each other with our mental health.

A few months ago, our internal diversity, equality and inclusion group were given the go ahead by the senior management team to arrange some mental health first aid training, which I volunteered to source. I contacted a few providers and came across Siren. In over 10 years working in learning & development I’ve never heard anyone talk so passionately about their training than Hollie at Siren. So, the decision to work with them was a no-brainer.

We have now had two groups of people attend the Siren training course, and as of last week, there are 24 members of staff registered as Mental Health First Aiders. Siren even tailored their course to fit around us and our workload. Originally this training was arranged to enable us to support each other, but in my experience, it is so much more than that…

When I first said I would write this blog I had an idea on how I was going to do it, then yesterday happened and I realised just how invaluable this training was.

Like 792 million people worldwide, I suffer from mental health issues. I’m lucky in that mine is manageable, I have a very specific trigger that thankfully doesn’t come up very often – I can’t drive behind an ambulance.

Yesterday I took a phone call from a stranger, my mum had fallen and needed an ambulance, so I obviously rush to her side. When one arrives, I was given the choice, I can either go with them in the ambulance or follow…. I can’t follow an ambulance.

As we are driving to the hospital, I suddenly realise we are driving the same route I drove behind one 5 years earlier. I started to feel my heartbeat increase and my breathing getting harder. We then pulled up to the hospital in the same bay as last time. Outside the same doors. I can’t go through those doors.

The paramedics with my mum were amazing, they stayed with mum and understood I didn’t want her to see my panic. But here is the important thing, in the past during my panic attacks I have felt stupid. I have tried to control it and stop it, embarrassed it’s happening – but this time I looked at it differently. This time I acknowledged it for what it was, something I cannot stop and something I do not need to be ashamed of.

I spoke to myself the way I would have spoken to someone who needed my help as a mental health first aider, and I was able to get “control” of my panic (as much as you can when in it) and remind myself I was in a different situation. Instead of the 10 minutes of panic, I was able to be back by my mum’s side almost as soon as she was wheeled through.

I agreed to take part in this training, expecting to use what I had learnt to support my colleagues. But it has helped me more than I can explain in this page.

They say 1 in 6 people experience mental health illness every week in the UK. This means, if it’s not you, you have an incredibly high chance of interacting with someone struggling with their mental health. As far as I am concerned, everyone needs to do this training for yourself and others.

Until then, if your stress container is getting full, I recommend finding the cheesiest music you can find and cranking up the volume!