Started MHFA Training
Clark Health Communications (CHC) is an award-winning health and medical communications agency based in Farringdon, London. As an SME with thirteen members of staff in a fast-paced sector, the company faces challenges similar to other SMEs that are unique to those of larger organisations. After hearing about Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training through The Healthcare Communications Association, Director Deborah Corcoran made the decision to widen the company’s skillset and train as a Mental Health First Aider (MHFAider).
Since completing the course in March 2018, the agency has put more of a focus on incorporating mental health into their wellbeing practices; training has been rolled out across the team and mental wellbeing has become a key focus for CHC’s management when considering the health of their workforce.
As an agency specialising in healthcare communications, staff at CHC have always been familiar with mental ill health. Working with clients who provide mental health therapies means that there’s already a good knowledge of professional services, such as GPs and psychiatrists within the team. Director Deborah Corcoran trained as an MHFAider to solidify the team’s understanding and gain skills that could be directly applied to their workplace. “Generally, being aware of mental health was the first step,” said Deborah. “The training gave us simple, practical tools and actions that we can implement to help address mental health with our employees – which is great.”
The healthcare communications sector is well-known for being fast-paced, with no two days the same. While this is what the CHC team enjoy about working in communications, it can be stretching for smaller workforces. Deborah explained: “As a smaller team, when one person is unwell, it can have a bigger impact than in a larger agency. Maintaining both physical and mental wellbeing, especially when it is busy, helps us to keep on top of the job and continue to deliver for our clients.”
MHFA training has given an already close-knit team the confidence to be more proactive when looking out for each other’s mental wellbeing; a crucial skill when time and resources may be in short supply. “We have always had a culture where we looked out for each other and as a smaller team it can be easier to spot when someone is up or feeling down, whether they are having challenges with their workload or whether they’re ready for new opportunities.”
“It can often be simple to spot when there is a physical health problem,” noted Deborah, “we have a first aid kit in the office, so we know we can sort minor cuts and injuries or manage the situation until specialist help arrives. MHFA training now gives us that ‘first aid kit’ for mental ill health.”
Since Deborah trained as an MHFAider, mental health awareness and simple self-help strategies have now been rolled out across the organisation, using the MHFA England’s ‘Address Your Stress’ toolkit. Ways to access an MHFAider are now publicised within the office and CHC’s leadership continues to make it clear to staff that they are a people-first organisation.
On this approach, Deborah said: “Line managers catch up with their linees once a month, and our aim is to use these sessions to check-in on wellbeing in a more structured way as well as continue to focus on professional development. The training has helped our line managers encourage open conversation around mental health. Our company would be nothing without its people and so that’s our priority; their development, their opportunities, their training and their wellbeing.”
“I would encourage all businesses large or small, to consider Mental Health First Aid training. It’s a relatively small investment of time and money, with the potential for the benefits to vastly outweigh that initial outlay.”
CHC is planning to expand the training provided for line managers around mental health, utilising MHFA resources to support them. Deborah also highlighted that the company are exploring ways to enhance employee benefits: “To supplement our internal training and support we are also investigating the potential to bring in an Employee Assistance Programme; something that I hadn’t known about before taking the MHFA course.”
As a result of increased engagement and awareness of wellbeing strategies, the team hope to maintain positive workforce engagement and to prevent or reduce potential days off due to wellbeing. The next steps will be to look at evaluating the wider benefits of MHFA in the workplace, something which Deborah and her team are keen to undertake.