28 Nov Become a Mental Health First Aider
Below is a section-by-section summary of my on-line ‘Become a mental health first aider’ course. Hopefully it will give you a good idea as to the depth and thoroughness of the first aid training. The objective is to help you provide early intervention when someone you know is experiencing undue stress and distress.
Section 1: The human stress response
I devote section one to discussing the mental health basics. In other words, we will study the background knowledge you to prepare you to deliver actual mental health first aid.
Although I must add that this background knowledge is often therapeutic in itself. Simply explaining these sorts of invaluable facts to someone can sometimes help them ease their anxiety or anger. You can even help lift them out of mild to moderate depression. Sometimes, when a person understands these stress mechanics it gives them powerful self-knowledge. And this new understanding, can in itself lift the clouds and bring in the sunshine.
This section includes six short videos. First comes the mental health continuum, followed by eight harmful mental health myths. Then the third video gives four facts to know about depression. Perhaps the most important video is number four discussing the human function curve, the mechanics of the stress response and the de-arousal system. Video number five elaborates on the stress response with stressed decision-making. And the final video gives you the contrast between natural and stressed brain states.
In essence, the role of a first aider is to help prevent someone progressing across the mental health continuum. What do I mean by this? To explain this term, we can say that this continuum proceeds from a point of being stretched and fully functioning to becoming overloaded and stressed. Significantly, if this situation continues, prolonged or overwhelming stress, progresses along the continuum into even more serious mental health issues.
Section 1.2: Harmful myths about mental health
There are a number of unhelpful myths circulating about mental health issues. As a consequence, this aspect is an important introduction to the course. The thing is that these myths can be quite seductive and as a result have caused confusion with patients over the years. In addition these myths have resulted in numerous styles of ineffective therapy.
Section 1.3: Four key facts about depression
This lecture handles four key facts about depression. And these can help you bring relief to sufferers quite quickly. On occasions this can even be immediate without endless rounds of therapy or resort to drug treatment.
Section 1.4: The mechanics of the stress response
This video is all important to the understanding of the whole course. The reason being that it provides a modern scientific understanding about the mechanics of the stress response. Its importance is based on three good reasons:
Firstly, the stress response is integral to understanding how to help people who are suffering from stress. In this respect, this knowledge is fundamental to effective psychotherapy.
Secondly, understanding the nature of the stress response provides a clear insight into how to help avoid stressful situations. Furthermore, it also helps avoid stress from degenerating into more serious ailments. This knowledge really is useful in developing an understanding about the cause of serious mental health issues. It also helps us understand we can sometimes fall ill with them. Similarly knowing about the nature of stress helps us regain our emotional balance and mental well-being again.
Thirdly, a fluent understanding of the stress response develops awareness as to exactly why people get stressed. This knowledge is especially helpful when discovering why people get stressed at work. As a result, you will be in a better position to help prevent such stressful incidences arise in the first place.
Here we cover another troubling aspect of the stress response that we come across in organizational life. And that troubling aspect is stressed decision-making.
Like stress generally, stressed decision-making is, largely overlooked as an obstacle to a smooth functioning organization. Awkwardly, this neglect causes a lot of harm to organizational performance. And this is because the stress response looms rather large as a culprit in planning and decision-making failure. In turn these two factors are primary causes of organizational failure or under-performance.
Similarly, stressed decision making also gets us into all kinds of difficulties in our private lives and relationships as well.
Section 1.6: Natural and stressed brain states
The final lecture in section one looks at the contrast between the different brain states we get into.
On the one hand in our natural brain state we have a wide range of superb faculties for creative problem-solving, relationship-building and team-working. Nature has provided these as basic survival skills. Incidentally, they include among others our capacity for enthusiasm, creativity, conscientiousness, rational problem-solving, enterprise, teamwork, curiosity, focus, loyalty and intuition.
In contrast to this happy brain state however, the stress response is essentially a trance state. And this trance gives rise to a range of negative emotions, unproductive behaviours, sub-optimum thinking and unhelpful attitudes.
Section 2: The twelve emotional needs
This section describes our twelve emotional needs and their implication for good mental health
Now that we have covered in some detail the stress response, in this section I look at the key factors that trigger that stress response. In essence the principle is that to survive, all living things must take in nourishment from the environment to continue to rebuild and maintain themselves. This nourishment of course means both physical and emotional nourishment which we experience as feelings and biological needs. During this section I show you how unmet needs are instrumental in getting people stressed. Likewise, unmet needs are a driver behind people becoming mentally and emotionally unwell.
These needs comprise a key factor in the maintenance of good mental health and well-being. Hence this section considers each one of these emotional drivers in turn and in some detail.
But this section is not just about stress as there is another takeaway. And that is the exciting finding from modern research that the freedom to fulfill our needs inspires levels of individual performance. And of course, enhanced individual performance collectively transforms organizational performance.
Section 2.1 The twelve emotional needs in detail
This thirty minute lecture goes in detail through each of our twelve emotional needs. At the same time I provide the implications for mental wellbeing, high performance and stress.
It is generally accepted that stress levels have risen during the crisis over the COVID-19 virus. This lecture discusses the impact of COVID and the various COVID countermeasures on our emotional needs in an attempt to explain the rise in stress.
Section 3: Our innate resources
Now that we have covered the biological needs it is important to recognize that we human beings aren’t simply a bundle of needs. We also come into life superbly equipped with innate resources that nature has refined to help us get our needs met. So, this section studies this other side of the human givens’ equation.
Altogether we find we are working with about a dozen or so innate resources and this section looks briefly at each one in turn. At the same time, we consider the implications of each one in terms of helping our colleague shift back to a happier state of wellbeing.
This introduction to the section includes three key points:
Where we find a lack of resilience or maybe an over-sensitivity to stressful stimulae, or where the person is suffering mental health problems, this may have occurred precisely because one or more of these resources has been left underdeveloped. This is why knowing about our innate resources, is crucial to us when offering mental health first aid.
It is always important to identify and focus on people’s strengths rather than their weaknesses. The reason for this is that accessing and utilising their strengths could well be the source of their recovery. In contrast, if we focus on people’s weaknesses through criticism or undue analysis or whatever, it can have the opposite effect we want.
A lot of the time we find that people are suffering stress or are becoming distressed because external conditions in some way prevent them from accessing or utilizing one or more of their innate resources. So, part of our assistance as workplace first aiders may be trying to identify where this sort of problem might be occurring.
Section 3.1: The repertoire of innate resources
This lecture covers each innate resource one by one in some detail and lasts about thirty minutes. Learning about these is crucial in helping people find the resources to empower their own recovery and maintain a sense of fulfillment and well-being.
Section 4: A variety of techniques to help you become a mental health first aider
This section is all about how to use different techniques and methods to help people who may be already stressed or even distressed at work. As we have learned, a key aspect of Mental Health First Aid is early intervention to provide rapid relief to someone in distress. After all, we want to help them then and there if at all possible.
But also, we want to help prevent their continued distress deteriorating into a more serious condition as in descending further down the mental health continuum.
For this reason, I like to think of mental health first aid as, in essence, skilled friendship in action. What I mean by that is that we use our training to provide not just some much-needed human contact or emotional connection, but also to apply some key knowledge and tools that will truly make a difference to our friend’s situation and distress.
Break down of lectures
So far there are twelve lectures in this section. Each one is designed to help you apply some key knowledge and tools that will truly make a difference. In this sense, this section is about consolidating the knowledge we have gained so far. And translating it into techniques, ideas, or advice that will help shift someone’s stressed thinking into more constructive patterns.
We will cover a wide range of useful topics. These include:
- The qualities of a mental health first aider
- How to structure a therapeutic conversation using the RIGAAR model,
- How to conduct reflective listening
- Information gathering
- Goal setting to get a therapeutic result
- Powerful language styles to inspire change,
- Relaxation techniques
- How to help avoid panic attacks,
- The importance of living a natural routine
- Action plans that will help you identify, avoid and deal with mental health issues arising from the pandemic and the COVID countermeasures.
It is not that we are looking for some exceptional superhero type. Far from it, we just want normal people with average healthy qualities. But, who have also taken the trouble to learn how to provide early and effective help to a friend in need. I have a clear view about being a first aider. And that is that essentially, we want to be a true friend to someone in need. Hence, the idea behind this course is to enable you to be a true friend – skillfully.
Section 4.1: How to structure a first aid session
The human givens institute have developed a well-tried and tested framework to conduct an effective counseling session. And this is known by the acronym RIGAAR standing for Rapport building; Information gathering; Goal setting; Accessing resources; Agreeing a strategy; Rehearsing success.
Section 4.2: Reflective listening
Few of us have grown up to be naturally good listeners. But it is an important skill that you can actually learn, and it is a key part of the rapport building necessary for an effective session. This is understandable when we reflect on our own experience and remember how much easier it is to engage in a fruitful conversation when we feel we have already been listened to and understood. This lecture will provide a number of key tips to help you to become a ‘good listener’.
Section 4.3: Information gathering
Now that we know how to listen attentively, the next step is to ensure that while we are listening, we keep the conversation focused and learn the facts about what is happening with our colleague.
In general terms, there are four aims to fulfil when questioning them on specifics.
Firstly, clarify their situation and clear up misconceptions, misunderstandings, and loosen any stubborn and unhelpful opinions that may be having a negative influence on them.
Secondly, gain valuable new information especially about their emotional needs and the use or misuse of their innate resources
Thirdly and importantly, help them to engage their left brain and intellect. This is as opposed to their emotional right hemisphere. Engaging the left hemisphere helps pull them out of the emotional trance state.
Fourthly, your questions reinforce their perception that you are actually trying to help, and this of course helps meet the emotional need for ‘attention’.
Section 4.4: Questionnaires to help you
The previous lecture is quite detailed and there is a lot to learn and cope with before you become fluent. This lecture provides three useful questionnaires. These will aid the process of information gathering and help you obtain what you need diplomatically and in a non-confrontational way.
Section 4.5: Goal setting
The next step after information gathering is goal setting. That is, we now want to help our colleague set clear goals that will enable them to take constructive action to improve their situation.
The underlying consideration here is that the interaction with your colleague needs a meaningful purpose in therapeutic terms. And this means you have to create a positive focus and a clear intended outcome.
Offering first aid is not just about making a connection and having a friendly chat, even though those two aspects are imperative. Of course, being a first aider means that the goals you set may be limited. But, although limited, it is still important that your colleague obtains real benefit from their encounter with you. And this must be so, even if the eventual outcome is simply a successful referral to a qualified therapist.
We always want to leave a positive wake.
Section 4.6: Therapeutic language
During our last video we learned how to help people set powerful goals that will shift our colleague’s focus towards positive outcomes in their lives. To help this process we make use of what is termed as ‘indirect communication’ as this style of language helps to bypass the resistance of the conscious mind to making changes. In this way we shift a colleague’s awareness away from self-limiting attitudes or negative beliefs to more uplifting and liberating ones.
In other words, the indirect approach makes it easier to provoke a change.
Section 4.7: Relaxation techniques
It is always necessary for your colleague to be calm and relaxed before you can really engage in providing any advice. After all they will need to learn something new or perhaps to do something different in order to move on. And in simple terms they cannot learn anything while emotionally aroused.
There is a good reason for this.
Science now tells us that the brain cannot physically go through the process of learning while its energy is being diverted towards coping with stress arousal. Hence it is very useful to know about simple relaxation techniques that you can adopt there and then in the first aid session.
There are two techniques I provide you with in this video. Both of these methods lower emotional arousal and help anyone suffering from an anxiety interlude.
I would add that these techniques are not in any way a mind trick, they literally produce a biological response that lowers anxiety in a physical way.
Panic attacks are an essential topic to learn about for a first aider as apparently about 10% of the population suffer from them in some form during their lives. They are very disturbing to have, especially if something is triggering them regularly. Nevertheless, many sufferers do not seek treatment or help.
Panic and anxiety seem to be reaching epidemic proportions, so you will no doubt come across people suffering from this type of condition. The lecture first defines what a panic attack is and then provides you with some very handy tips to help someone out of one and also help prevent them in the future.
Section 4.9: The importance of a natural routine
As a mental health first aider perhaps working in an organization, you will no doubt be confronted on a daily basis with the typical workplace long hours culture. And no doubt there are also various other factors that add up to making routines both irregular and unnatural.
Unfortunately, this social problem is an important contributor to high stress, and low performance at work. Sadly, this has the inevitable follow-through effect of a weakened immune system and poor mental health. The plain fact is that absent breaks and mealtimes, back-to-back meetings, multitasking, late working hours, all take there toll. As do weekend working and unremitting electronic communications day and night, seven days a week.
Too many people these days seem to be unwilling or unable to switch off. So, it is useful to know that the human psychophysiology works best if synchronized to its innate natural rhythms. Essentially, we are attuned to a cycle of rest and activity. These rhythms or cycles include the daily or circadian rhythms. Our physiology reacts to the experience of night time day time. As examples, our digestion peaks at midday, we produce hormones early on in the day to help us sleep at night and so on.
This is an important topic and provides useful and practical tips to help people ‘normalize’ their routine and so build resilience to stress and mental illness and optimize their own well-being and productivity.
Section 4.10: Journaling
Journaling is an easy practice for someone to adopt into their daily routine. And this can really help them cope with the daily stress of life as the practice helps people get to know themselves and become better awake to the reality of their inner world. These are important faculties that help you develop inner resilience, flexibility and resourcefulness. All three being important factors in maintaining good mental health.
Section 4.11: COVID action plans
The pandemic, government countermeasures and the publicity surrounding them has generated very real fears in people. In the process, these factors have demanded quite drastic changes to our working lives. Unhappily, along with these fears, and changes comes the inevitable challenges to mental health.
Here the first aider can play an invaluable role in easing the stress and prevent long-term deterioration into serious mental health issues. To help you in this role, you can download an action plan template that provides suggestions designed to help managers identify and manage potential mental health issues that might arise.
There is also an article on recovery planning that takes into account the key psychological aspects required to generate focussed energy towards unified goals.
Section 5: Summary of TBD’s ‘Become a mental health first aider’ course
I try and summarize for you the important learning points to take away from each of the four sections. Some students find this video a useful refresher for revision.
Mental Health First Aid is about early intervention to provide relief and so prevent a stressed or distressed person developing a more serious condition.
My motto is that essentially mental health first aid is skilled friendship in action. We are providing that, much-needed human touch along with the vital knowledge of how to steer someone back on to the right path of low stress and happy sense of wellbeing.
Click on the link to enroll in my on-line ‘Become a mental health first aider’ course. I sincerely hope you enjoy the course and find it very beneficial.