With Time to Talk Day being just around the corner and myself being fresh from gaining certification as a Mental Health First Aider- I feel this is a great moment to promote Time to Talk Day, which is coming up on February 2nd.
It means a lot to me to earn this qualification. The course itself was delivered by someone who is very patient and allowed us all to learn at our own pace and share what we were comfortable to share. I also think that it really opened people’s eyes to how life is lived through the lens of someone with a mental health condition.
I went through a mental health assessment in 2018 after a life event that left me very insecure- and as a result of this, I found out I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder. This is one of the more common diagnoses within the mental health spectrum, but beyond this, there are various other types of mental health that perhaps go under the radar more often than not. So I was very grateful to have the opportunity to watch some videos and broaden my understanding of it.
Since completing this course, I now feel like my confidence has taken a step forward in being a Mental Health First Aider. I see myself as more of a signposting person though, for multiple reasons. The first being my neurodivergent conditions. The impact of this, is that my processing speed is a lot slower than someone without Dyspraxia in particular. So I would end up forgetting what someone has said and be unable to find the words to say next. I am someone who I would not shy away from saying, am more of a talker than a listener for this reason. I have lots of things to say, but can’t listen and take notes either physically or mentally. However, if I can signpost someone who is going through a difficult time to a colleague or someone else with the skills that I don’t have, I feel like this would be just as helpful.
In the absence of fast processing speeds though, I have a much deeper understanding of the sorts of questions to ask and what to do next if further action is what I feel is necessary. The framework used to support someone going through mental health challenges is called ALGEE. This process starts off with approaching, assessing and assisting (the last part being involved if the person is deemed to be in a crisis). Next is listening non-judgementally. After that is giving support and finally, encouraging the person to seek professional help or alternatives to this.
To me, the environment to have such a discussion is also important. Someone with a mental health condition, or even someone going through the process of a potential diagnosis, would not want to be in an environment where their confidentiality could be impeded upon by essentially having an audience listening (even if that listening is unintentional). I think a good environment to have an open discussion about mental health is whilst on a walk with a friend, or maybe at one another’s house over a cup of tea or coffee. This removes the interruptions and the hustle and bustle of a busier environment and makes life much less overwhelming.
It is also important, that while engaged in a conversation surrounding mental health- to not try to fix the person. You can listen, do your best to understand and encourage a person to look at different options in terms of support. But it is not your job to fix them. It is important to me, and also part of our philosophy here at Enrych, to empower people, including those with poor mental health, to choose the way in which they want to live. Perhaps what’s good enough for some people is to attend a session such as Boccia and Multisports at Whitwick and Coalville Leisure Centre or have some refreshments and a chat at the Marlene Reid Centre. As always and I’m sure everyone knows this nowadays- there is no one size fits all. And your role is purely to be there and to listen and not to fix the person.
Something else to remember, is to treat a person struggling with their mental health the same as you always would. They are not their mental health condition. It would be just like if someone had a physical injury of some kind- you don’t define someone by their condition. Their condition is a part of them. Not their whole self and should not be something to make you cut off contact with them. If you need more support to understand these things, there are also additional resources you can find via organisations such as MIND and SAMARITANS.
Finally, be patient. Referring to what I spoke about at the start of this post, it is important to give a person the platform to share what they wish to share. Don’t force someone into sharing everything all in one go or pressuring them to discuss things that are incredibly sensitive pieces of information. The thing to remember is the fact you have given the person the platform to talk about what they are going through is the most important aspect of all. This will in turn, make it easier for people to talk about things knowing that they have that safe space to be open about things.
Here at Enrych, we will be marking this special day in the calendar by doing a mental health related quiz and we shall also be putting up bunting in our office to raise awareness too. We always look at ways we can be active in putting our messages out in various ways and increasing the level of conversation about the most important issues. Watch out for things across our social media pages and goings on in the community for everything related to Time to Talk Day. Help make one single day something that sparks these conversations on any day of the year.