RedArc launches support for Mental Health First Aiders

Following the  success of supporting group colleagues internally, RedArc is now launching a new service to companies to support Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs) in recognition that employers have a duty of care to safeguard not only those who seek mental health support but also those who are involved in facilitating it.

Support in practice

RedArc’s mental health specialists have been supporting fifteen MHFAs within their group since the summer: everyone reported that their confidence in the role had increased and all valued having access to a mental health nurse for expert guidance to help their colleagues as well as support for themselves.

The need for support is set to increase

Mental Health First Aid England, the largest provider of mental health first aid training in the UK, has alone already trained 500k individuals and is aiming to reach 1 in 10 people. This could leave a large cohort of employees feeling unsupported and with concerns about how best to assist colleagues with mental health issues, so the need for professional support is only going to increase.

Increased pressures of Covid and extended remote working will increase the need further.

Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc, said: “The position of an MHFA is a voluntary one and is in addition to an individual’s day-to-day role, and as that individual is not a mental health practitioner, it is absolutely vital that they have clear parameters and effective support in place. Without the right support, the responsibility of helping others can sometimes become a heavy burden and cause the MHFA to question their role and easily become detrimental to their own mental health.”

 RedArc’s MHFA support scheme

Led by an experienced registered mental health nurse, the service is based on the principles of clinical supervision and includes both group and one-to-one sessions for MHFAs.

  • Small group sessions held monthly encourages an organisation’s MHFAs to network as a group and provide peer support, as well as being a forum to share concerns, learnings, useful sources of information, and ensure MHFAs understand and manage the boundaries of their role.
  • MHFAs will come across a wide range of issues and they can’t be expected to know about all available support. Expert mental health nurses can give specific advice and guidance on support available, be that within internal employee benefits or external support such as the NHS Crisis Team or specialist charities
  • Individual guidance is given to MHFAs, where they’re able to discuss personal concerns and receive advice as well as sign-posting to appropriate services and resources for their own wellbeing.

Pressures faced by MHFAs

A study by The University of Nottingham & Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)* revealed that many MHFAs experience similar concerns to those in RedArc’s findings – with specific issues around lack of clarity over boundaries and scope of work.

RedArc’s nurses also find that there is often potential for MHFAs to go above and beyond the boundaries of their role to help an employee who is struggling, and a danger that employees misinterpret the role as a source of ongoing support. Other issues faced by MHFAs include becoming overwhelmed or adversely affected by the problems and experiences of others, as well as being overly concerned about how best to support colleagues when they are faced with a multitude of wide-ranging issues.

Christine concluded: “MHFAs can be a key asset within an organisation’s mental health strategy but they are not immune from the pressures of the workplace or everyday life themselves.

“Every organisation that has encouraged its employees to become MHFAs and invested in their training, should ensure that it continues to offer access to regular and ongoing professional support, to safeguard both the MHFAs themselves as well as enabling them to better help their colleagues.”