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Near the end of our 2020 Wrap-Up on the Redesigning Wellness podcast, host Jen Arnold asks me about Jozito LLC’s plans for 2021, which gave me a chance to explain how employers can offer Mental Health First Aid training to support their leaders, managers, and workforce at large. The section starts around minute 52:00 (the YouTube version below should go right there). And, below, I’ve provided a summary (adapted from the podcast), in question and answer format.

(No matter how you listen, I recommend you subscribe to the Redesigning Wellness podcast. It’s the single best resource for learning and looking ahead in the world of employee wellness.)

Mental Health First Aid logo

Q: Tell me what you’re doing in 2021.

A: I’m taking mental health and emotional wellbeing further. As a certified Mental Health First Aid instructor, I’ll bring Mental Health First Aid Training to employers and their workforces.

Q: What is Mental Health First Aid?

A: Mental Health First Aid is like CPR, but for people experiencing mental health problems or showing signs or symptoms of mental health or substance-use -related problems or crises. Mental Health First Aiders are knowledgeable about major mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and substance misuse; know how to assess a situation; engage nonjudgmentally; and connect people to appropriate resources.

Q: Why is it important?

A: There’s good evidence about mental health first aid training. It…

  • Reduces stigma
  • Increases people’s confidence and ability to address co-workers (and others) who may be experiencing a crisis
  • Improves the mental health of the person taking the training

Q: Is it enough to just offer Mental Health First Aid training? Where does it fit into a broader strategy?

A: It’s not the be-all-and-end-all of mental health solutions, but it’s an important piece of the puzzle. It allows employees to support each other, which is important whether virtually or in person. And it goes to a number of things beyond what we usually think of as mental health, like social support and civility in the workplace — secondary outcomes.

Q: What about other mental health services?

There are a lot of new products and services gaining traction. For a while there were EAPs, and now there are a variety of apps that offer a range of services like self-guided help — often using some form of artificial intelligence — therapy services, coaching services, and so forth. I help clients sort through all these services — many employers are paying for duplicate services or paying vendors that aren’t delivering what they promise — and Mental Health First Aid training optimizes these other components. Before training employees in Mental Health First Aid, I’ll incorporate into the instruction awareness of the various resources available to them and their co-workers. Consequently, when a Mental Health First Aider who I’ve trained engages with a co-worker potentially in need of professional support, the Mental Health First Aider will be well versed in the available resources they can refer their co-worker to. Of course, I provide community resources, as well. As employers consider this, they usually realize that offering Mental Health First Aid is a path to leveraging the investment they’ve made in other mental health products and services.

Q: Why are you providing Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) yourself and not just referring your clients to a vendor?

A: Interest in employee mental health has been ramping up in recent years — it’s consistently been a centerpiece of my work as an employee wellbeing program manager and as a consultant — and, with the COVID-19 pandemic, it accelerated (for good reason, as prevalence of mental health problems skyrocketed). I’ve found that my clients either were already offering some form of mental health first aid, or I was recommending that they do so. So, there was a natural evolution for me to offer it directly to my clients, as I have unique familiarity with their work environment, their culture, their workers, and their other employee benefits. All Mental Health First Aid instructors certified by the National Council on Behavioral Health are top-tier; I complement that knowledge with a unique sensitivity to the employers’ needs.

Q: Are you a psychologist or therapist?

No. Mental Health First Aid is something tailored toward laypeople. There are plenty of clinicians who teach it; but just as many non-clinicians. I find that, as a non-clinician, other laypeople relate to me and have confidence that if I can do it, they can do it. Consider regular (physical) first aid: You don’t have to be a doctor to provide first aid. In fact, it’s usually taught to lay people by lay people. That said, I do find that my training and recent experience as a volunteer crisis counselor effectively informs the mental health first aid trainings I offer. If a clinical presence is important to a client, I have a network of many certified Mental Health First Aid instructors who also are clinicians, and I can arrange to co-teach with them.

Q. Can you teach employees who are working from home or who are dispersed geographically?

I am certified to teach in-person, virtually, or a blended version. Currently, I only teach in-person, as the technology that the certifying body requires we use to teach virtually is archaic, buggy, and exasperating. I’m not willing to subject my clients or their employees with it.

Q. What do you find gratifying about teach Mental Health First Aid in the workplace?

Solutions for wellbeing won’t come in the form of an app, a website, or a wearable device. These are wonderful technological innovations, and they play an important role, but to make authentic change, we have to be engaging with employees — and creating avenues for them to engage more with each other — in a distinctly human way. Mental Health First Aid Training does that. And I love interacting directly with employees — whether they are executives, middle managers, or front-line workers. Having spent years managing and consulting, it feels meaningful to me to “come out from behind the curtain,” engage with employees in a distinctly human way, and help them develop the Mental Health First Aid skills that I know will make a difference in their lives at work and at home.

Q: Do you offer the training just to managers or to an organization’s entire workforce?

Either/or. Frequently, employers just want to offer the training to their managers. And that can be a good idea. I’d consider it essential training for employers that advise employees to talk to their managers about mental health problems. Often, managers don’t know how to engage in these conversations safely and effectively, and Mental Health First Aid training is the solution. Sometimes, it depends on the company size: Larger employers will offer it to their leaders/managers — at least to start — whereas smaller companies may open it up to the entire team.

Q: How can we get more information or book a training?

Just use the Contact form on my website and mention Mental Health First Aid training. You also can contact me on LinkedIn. I usually get back to people within 24 hours.