Welcome to your June Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England newsletter. I hope that you have been able to enjoy meeting up with loved ones in person. While we can relish a little more normality in our lives, we continue to remain cautious and optimistic for the future.  

In this newsletter: 

Welcome to your June Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England newsletter. I hope that you have been able to enjoy meeting up with loved ones in person. While we can relish a little more normality in our lives, we continue to remain cautious. 

Once in a while life throws us a curveball and I don’t think I am alone in saying that 2020 threw us a big one! Thankfully, our basic human instinct is survival and in times of trouble we make decisions designed to protect ourselves and those around us. Often, it is only after a period of time that we can sit back, reflect and celebrate our achievements in weathering the storm.
More than a year on from the start of the pandemic I would like to pause and reflect on what the MHFA England community has achieved and celebrate the collective impact we’ve had on people’s mental health and wellbeing during a really tough time.  

Last year, when the country went into its first lock down, there was the overwhelming fear of the unknown and the shock of our worlds being turned upside down. As a face to face training provider, it was clear that we would need to act fast. We agreed that to continue with our vision to improve the mental health of the nation, we would need to adapt our delivery model and offer an online solution. 

By the start of April we had a plan to adapt our core training course, Mental Health First Aid, and make it available for our Instructor Members to deliver online. By 29 May we began training people to be Mental Health First Aiders using our brand-new Online Learning Hub. In those eight weeks, our staff, National Trainers, Associates and Instructor Members joined together and made what felt like the impossible, possible. 

I will always be in awe of people’s willingness to collaborate in the face of adversity, and I will be forever thankful to our community for pulling together with a common goal of supporting the mental health of the nation. This pivot from face to face to online training was not simple but it was essential. In order for us to continue on our mission of training one in ten of the adult population, we had to be able to reach people remotely and deliver the same learning outcomes as those gained on a face to face course. 

And the numbers speak for themselves. Since 31 March 2020 we have trained 132,000 people in MHFA England knowledge and skills – 77,000 of those are certified as Mental Health First Aiders. In June 2020, we had reached 1:70 of the adult population with our training. Exactly a year later we have moved that number to 1:56 which means that in total we have trained 660,000 of the adult population in England. 

This is an incredible achievement. I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone in the MHFA England community who has contributed to this milestone moment. Every one of you is an inspiration and you move us further to achieving our vision.

We hope that you enjoy reading this month’s newsletter. As usual, we encourage you to share the resources and content with your own network so we can all continue to improve the mental health of the nation.

Best wishes,
Sarah McIntosh 
Director of Delivery, MHFA England 

BBC mental health tool

MHFA England has partnered with BBC News to develop some interactive exercises around the principles of Mental Health First Aid training.

Using situations relevant to the pandemic, people can try the exercises to see whether they could spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health, listen compassionately, and signpost individuals to get further support.

Published for the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, the tool has been shared on BBC Headroom, the BBC's dedicated platform for mental health advice, resources and content. It was shared on the BBC News social media channels, and has generated thousands of referrals to the MHFA England website. 

Please share the tool with your teams, clients or network. The tool will provide people with useful tips for starting conversations around mental health, as well as a taste for the skills and knowledge that Mental Health First Aid training can provide. 

To view the interactive exercises, click here.
Instructor training opportunities

If your workplace is considering its approach to mental health and wellbeing, please consider the MHFA England Instructor Training programme. This would enable one or more of your colleagues to deliver our accredited Mental Health First Aid course to people within your organisation, either for an adult or youth audience.

All our courses are grounded in research, and written by clinical experts and those with lived experience of mental health issues. The licensed Instructor Training programme is accredited by the Royal Society for Public Health and delivered by our expert National Trainers.

We have spaces available on our courses between July and September 2021. This includes seven days of training, spread over six weeks. For more information about the course and the application process, please visit our website or email the MHFA England training team at training@mhfaengland.org.
Managing stress

74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope, according to research the Mental Health Foundation. 

While a small amount of stress is natural, and can even be good for us, when multiple stress factors combine we know the consequences are rarely positive. Stress is a significant factor in mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. It is also linked to physical health problems such as heart disease, issues with our immune system, insomnia and digestive problems. 

Understanding what causes us stress and taking action to manage our stress levels is a key part of looking after our wellbeing. Individually we need to understand what is causing us personal stress and learn what steps we can take to reduce it for ourselves and those around us.

April is Stress Awareness Month. While this provides a great opportunity to consider our working practices and how we manage our stress levels, we must recognise that stress is a year round issue and one of the great public health challenges of our time. Millions of us around the UK are experiencing high levels of stress and it is damaging our health. 

We have put together lots of useful resources to help address your stress, including signs to spot and helpful coping methods. Our interactive Stress Container can help people understand how we experience stress and how to address our stress levels. We encourage you to use and share these resources with colleagues or your network.

As part of Stress Awareness Month, Head of People, Wellbeing and Equity Ama Afrifa-Tchie, reflected on stress, and how employers can support their people when events outside of work impact them. Read more about this here. 

MHFA England CEO Simon Blake, has also addressed how encouraging self-care in the workplace is not enough, and that employers are responsible for managing stress too. Read more in his recent blog here. 
Working with Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust

As a social enterprise, our ‘profit with pride’ model means we exist to benefit society, not shareholders. During the pandemic we have shifted our focus to supporting the mental health of NHS workers, by offering subsidised training and mobilising the volunteering time of our Instructor Member and Mental Health First Aider community.  

Over the last year or so we have delivered mental health knowledge and skills training across NHS Trusts and delivered a bespoke training session to over 350 people as part of the NHS Homeless Response Programme. We have mobilised hundreds of Mental Health First Aiders to provide support to services for NHS workers. These initiatives have been designed to support NHS staff and resources as this sector has experienced some of the deepest trauma because of the pandemic.

Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust provides NHS hospital services for approximately 900,000 people across Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey and south Buckinghamshire. They employ 10,000 staff across three main hospital sites and a further six community sites. 

The last year has been incredibly tough on staff at Frimley Health. They have experienced some of the highest numbers of Covid-19 patients in the country and at times their ICUs were at more than double normal capacity, with 15 wards dedicated to Covid-19 and hundreds of staff redeployed. 

Read the inspiring case study here, to find out how Frimley has trained 150 Mental Health First Aiders and three Instructor Members to improve the mental health of staff during this challenging time. 
Samaritans support for health and social care workers

To address the acute and long term mental health impact of the pandemic on frontline workers, Samaritans launched a dedicated emotional support line for NHS and social care workers which is free, confidential, and available 7 days a week from 7am to 11pm. While restrictions may be easing, the charity is aware that health and social care workers may be beginning to process the impact of the past 15 months and is encouraging anyone who might be struggling to reach out for support. 

Samaritans is also part of Our Frontline, a coalition effort with Mind, Hospice UK and Shout 85258. Through the platform of Our Frontline, the four charities collectively provide round the clock, one-to-one mental health support, resources and advice for key workers all in one place. The additional pressures the pandemic has placed on the shoulders of health and social care staff for such a prolonged period of time has exposed how important mental health support is for people in these professions. Our Frontline recently launched a new campaign that aims to support health and social care workers in particular, encouraging them to take a breath and check on themselves. 

If you or anyone you know would benefit from emotional support, please visit Samaritans or Our Frontline.

George Floyd, one year on

25 May marked one year since the killing of George Floyd, an African American who was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer during an arrest. Floyd’s murder led to worldwide protests against police racism and lack of police accountability. 

These events prompted MHFA England to evaluate our own work and consider what more we could be doing to become an anti-racist organisation. In July 2020 we published our Statement of Intent on Race Equity detailing a set of actions for us to undertake within our community and training to bring about change and champion anti-racism. 

On the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, we asked Chantal Senya, MHFA England Customer Service Advisor, and the Chair of our Project Sapphire Champions to write a blog for us. As a Black-British woman who has experienced racism in its various forms, we wanted to share her reflections of the last year. You can read her blog here

To help support your continued education about racism and White privilege, and how it impacts People of Colour and Black people emotionally, mentally, and physically, we encourage you to look at some of the resources below. 

My Whole Self 

Thank you to everyone who got involved with this year’s My Whole Self Day on 18 March and Mental Health Awareness Week 2021. 

It was wonderful to see so many people and organisations sharing our resources, and their My Whole Selfies. We are delighted that our resources have been widely downloaded and shared, and we hope that they continue to help people bring their whole self to work and support their own and others’ wellbeing. 

Workplaces play a key role in creating a society where everyone’s mental health matters, so we encourage you to continue using and sharing the resources in our My Whole Self campaign toolkit throughout the year. 

Here are several easy ways to continue engaging with and supporting the campaign:
We hope to see lots of you continuing to advocate for workplace culture change. We will continue to keep you informed on My Whole Self and our next steps. As always, thank you for your support. 
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