We asked some of the half a million people who have been on a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England course to tell us how their skills have been put into practice during the Coronavirus pandemic and what tips they have for supporting the mental health and wellbeing of colleagues, friends, family and importantly themselves too.
We are proud to have trained a network of people who have the knowledge and skills to help support the mental health of a nation going through a crisis. Here are some of their suggestions:
"Choose a trusted place to get clear advice and guidelines, like the NHS website. Social media can be a great place for support and reassurance but it can also be unkind, judgemental and scare-mongering, so try to be sensible with what aspects you give your time to.
"It’s great to say ‘go for a walk, do the housework etc but it’s not always so easy, especially if your mental health is failing. I recommend getting outside each day even if it’s to stand on your doorstep or back garden if you can. If not, have a window open just to allow in some fresh air.
"Make time to sit and do nothing. I use the Headspace app to meditate, but you can do anything. Enjoy a hot drink in the quiet, look out at the stars at night for five minutes. Just try your best to have time out.
"It’s ok to be anxious, to be worried and concerned. We’re in unprecedented times and no one is sure what is happening. Try not to judge others and remain kind to each other."
"After being shared tips about staying connected for #MyWholeSelf
day, I made a suggestion of virtual coffee breaks to my manager, who liked the idea, so set up one daily. It is not mandatory by any means, but people can dip in and out as needed. People have fed back that it is nice to hear different voices different and to really feel connected at this difficult time.
"One of my colleagues who hadn’t joined before said she was apprehensive about how it might work, but had really enjoyed just talking about her struggles and a bit of nothing for a while. I always try and ensure that we laugh – at least once – during the break."
"Myself and one of my colleagues were MHFA trained back in Nov 2019. With the help of our Instructor Member who trained us, we decided that to put together a mental health forum
for our clients, and had over 100 attendees to our launch event.
"It was a massive success, we helped reassure a lot of people who were worried about their mental health and the mental health of their teams during remote working were assisted."
"I wanted to give staff a way of contacting me easily from their own individual workstations, so I launched a designated staff wellbeing email address. During these difficult and uncertain times, this has now proved so valuable.
"It means I have been able to send out mental health and wellbeing emails to all staff, where I have provided information about looking after ourselves while working from home, managing anxiety, and also 'good news' articles. I have also set up a virtual 'life after coronavirus jar', and staff are emailing the things they plan to do once the daily structure of our lives has returned to some normality.
"It has been different to support staff remotely, but with all the resources provided by MHFA England and other organisations, it has been possible."
"For the couple of individuals I regularly support, I have offered phone or Skype time. They always come to me whenever they need to. For my team, I share mindful moment messages that I pick up from across the internet. Also, fun and silly messages, laughter is so powerful.
"It has been amazing, that we have been able to adapt so quickly to make such an effective change in how we work together. I think that we could learn a great deal about how we interact, support and care for each other from this situation."
"As a single person living alone, I have found that not being able work due to the current circumstance does affect my wellbeing. I am finding now that being a Mental Health First Aider has made it possible for me to use what I have learnt, and what I have been through, to help those people around me, which in turn is helping my own wellbeing.
"I live in a complex of flats which consists mostly of single older people and few younger people. Most of the days are taken up with just communicating and helping by running small errands for the residents around me. I’m proud to be playing a part in helping people through the crisis."
For more ways to support your mental health, and the wellbeing of those around you, during the pandemic, check out our guidance on working from home and our Take Ten Together toolkit.