How Mental Health First Aid training is helping me bring kindness to my industry
Kate Bright is the CEO of Secure Lifestyle business UMBRA International Group. Working in a male-dominated industry that’s primarily concerned with protecting peoples’ physical safety and well-being, Kate is positively disrupting the sector by bringing a new kindness to it.
As part of her efforts to do this, and following a friend’s suicide, she undertook Mental Health First Aid training with Andy Elwood in 2021. Here, she tells us about learning how to help yourself before others and how to listen rather than trying to solve everyone’s problems…
Tell me why you wanted to do Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training and implement it within your organisation?
A friend of mine very sadly died by suicide in September 2020. It made me stop and think that I want to be able to step in and stop anyone getting to that point. I’m a practical do-er, so I wanted to know what can I do, how can I turn this passive grief into action?
There’s a lot of people in the industry who are possibly struggling, and possibly not talking about struggling, as well as being on the ‘front line’ of public safety and first on the scene in many cases witnessing traumatic events during the course of their work. If there could be a legacy for my business it would be taking some of the learning that I got from Andy and putting that back into the industry and championing that kind of change across the whole sector.
In my own organisation, Umbra International Group, I want to be able to support my team with anything they might be dealing with. We did the training as a team and it was a great bonding experience. Anyone who joins our team also now does the MHFA training as part of their on-boarding process and I think it should be the same for other companies
At the end of the day, we’re all humans walking around with other humans. We all need to be looking out for each other, and this training is the best way you can do that.
Absolutely, we couldn’t agree more. How did you find the course?
I loved it! It’s structured perfectly so you can get it cracked out in a few weeks, so it’s ideal for people, like me, who like to take action and get stuff done. But there’s also reflective time in between to really absorb what you’ve learned and think about.
We did it online which was great because you’re learning about fairly serious subjects but you can be at home in your comfortable clothes and familiar environment. For one session, I had my duvet wrapped around me and on my sofa at home and was cosy – it was perfect.
There’s also a lot of interactivity, which is particularly good for an online course, and our team got so much out of the sharing experience.
How did you find Andy as a trainer?
All of my team said how great it was to see him breaking down stereotypes. I work in a very male-dominated industry, and we’re aiming to bring in a new kindness to it, and he brings that kindness to his training.
But he also has authenticity and lived experience of what he’s talking about. Plus, he really sees you – he’s very good at watching the screen and checking that you’re ok if he can see that something has affected you.
He is so empathetic. That man deserves a knighthood.
We’ll get in touch with the palace and see what we can do! What did you learn on the course that really stood out to you?
It was that your oxygen mask has to go on first – to help others you have to first help yourself. That is something I have always struggled with.
Andy helps you learn how to pick out things that might be happening to yourself that you need to manage first. I think Andy is really good at bringing that kind of self-learning to the fore to help you find out how you can best help others.
We have to go back to understanding people’s emotional well-being. Now, when I speak to clients who come to me with complex problems, I ask in early-stage discussions ‘what emotional support do you have?’. That new part of our client duty of care is a direct result of doing the course with Andy.
What has been your experience since becoming a Mental Health First Aider?
I’ve always struggled with listening, I want to do and take action. Sitting back and actively listening when someone tells me they have a problem is difficult for me, my mind races with solutions.
Since doing the course I know more about asking someone to just talk, without feeling as if I have to find a solution. I love finding a solution but you can help someone by just letting them speak.
And I’ve understood that even if you think you’re not surrounded by people every day, you are. We’re interacting with people all the time – even when we’re walking down the street, and those people might be struggling. Being a Mental Health First Aider means I have greater awareness of that and how I might be able to help, even if it’s just in a small way by acknowledging them and asking how they are.
I’ve got the ALGEE mnemonic in my purse at all times as a reminder and we are adding it into the new suite of training courses we are launching – including the Personal Security Toolkit. The ALGEE ethos is brilliantly simple to remember:
A – Approach, assess for crisis, assist
L – Listen & communicate non-judgmentally
G – Give support & information
E – Encourage appropriate professional support
E – Encourage other supports.
How has doing the training changed you/your organisation?
I’m now conscious when interacting with a client that they might be struggling and I actively try to take an empathetic stance. We’re also building that approach into our business structures and processes a lot more.
For me, I now judge a good day by how many clients I’ve truly listened to and what I’ve heard from them.
We are in the final stages of securing funding for launching the Personal Security Toolkit which will be a free online product with a particular emphasis on the safety of women and girls. Anyone working in an organisation with deep pockets and a desire to help create something to address gender-based violence feel free to get in touch!
We’ve identified 10 areas of personal safety for the toolkit, in taster sized sessions, including psychological safety and mental well-being, and that’s going to include a taster of MHFA training.
What advice do you have for someone considering the MHFA training?
Do it, do it, do it!
If you do it, be kind to yourself during the time that you’re on the training. And don’t see it as a course, it’s the start of a learning journey and it’s more about what you do with that learning afterwards.
Would you recommend the training with Andy, and why?
Yes, absolutely! He has empathy in spades, lived experience in spades and a really powerful delivery. He’s a 11/10 in my book.
If Kate’s experience has inspired you and you’re considering MHFA training, you can find more information here or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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