Mental Health First Aid Training

Today was pretty intense with a concentrated combined learning approach to teaching mental health first aid. I should specify it was me getting trained rather than imparting my wisdom to the masses.

As a technical note, the course is the FAA Level 2 Award in First Aid for Mental Health and so there will be a formal assessment on Thursday before I can earn the qualification. Essentially the training is in how to be the initial response and advocate when mental health needs addressing – and formalises the sort of general pastoral support I do with staff and public as well as friends and family.

Most of it is common sense and appropriate signposting and de-escalation, but it’s still been heavy going with a lot of my own issues raked up in the process. Still, if it means I can help people it’s worth it.

Mental Health First Aider

This is an option for training that has just cropped up at work, and it dovetails so neatly in to how I and my colleagues work with our staff that I just had to rattle a few cages to make it happen.

And the argument was won, so in March at some point we’ll get accredited training to be able to act as a vital element of support for our staff among the stresses that just keep coming.

Hopefully that’ll be after I return to work from looking after Lady M as she recovers from surgery. I am fully expecting to be spending a lot of time over the next few weeks telling her to step away from the laptop. She’s the first to admit she’s a lousy patient, but she’ll still need to be loving taken back to the sofa and an xbox controller put back in her hands while I make another mug of black tea.

Mental Health Awareness

My workplace is taking the general mental health of its employees seriously enough to be rolling out information and training in resiliency and self awareness, and making sure people know that support is available. I’m glad to see it, and even more so to have my staff acknowledge that they’ve found some of it useful, or at least thought-provoking.

My own use of the tools is somewhat undercut by the experience of being in long-term counselling for some nineteen years or so, and doing many of the practices already as part of my self-care discipline. It would be easy therefore to allow a degree of jaded thought if not for remembering that many people are encountering these concepts for the first time and that my journey does not invalidate the courses, the assessments, or the information in any way.

It would be easy to scoff and roll my eyes at the results telling me that I have negative thoughts and high levels of stress – because it’s not telling me anything that I’m not already aware of – but the tools and challenges suggested are ones that colleagues are finding useful.

I know I have negative thoughts and impulses because I challenge and fight them every morning, afternoon, and evening and do my best to not be defined or controlled by them. The thing is, I don’t really know how many others around me fight them too: Not unless they tell me by word or deed. So that’s why I’m so glad for the new focus at work. It’s more chipping away at the stigma.

Lone Working

I was on a course today delivered in partnership with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust which looked at some of the principles and methods you can use to be mindful of your personal safety when working on your own. It was nothing to do with self defence, but was aimed at provoking thought and preparation in processes, awareness, and communication within an organisation and between colleagues.

I found it useful, and in parts challenging. Some of that challenge was to my perception and assumptions, and some of it came from the memories it evoked of past events. What was, to my mind, more interesting though was the defensiveness that some of my co-attendees exhibited around personal responsibility.

There was anger at the way some information had been hurriedly rolled out about changes in procedures – but it felt misdirected at the person delivering the course who was from a third party – and I had to bite my tongue a few times as I recalled working in the first years after my degree in a very rough estate on my own, including carrying cash to the bank on foot and regularly ejecting armed youths from the premises.

I have had to remind myself that everyone has different stressors and thresholds, and that I can’t measure their fears against my experiences and outlook.

I may still have rolled my eyes mentally a few times, but I am determined to be as positive and constructive manager of people through it all as I can.

I shall no doubt continue to work on my response to people not taking responsibility for their own safety in therapy.

Looking To The Future

I’ve wanted to get further training in counselling skills for a number of years. When I started volunteering with the Surrey Drug and Alcohol Careline (as it was then called), I took part in their training programme which served as an introduction to counselling. This only confirmed what I’d already picked up from many long conversations over the years in self-help groups and friends – that I seem to have a knack and aptitude for listening and helping people talk things through.

It’s an impression that my counsellor has confirmed across thirteen years of treatment – to the degree that she’s now helping me pick through the poorly documented and irritatingly diverse number of types of accreditation and training available. It’s proving an uphill and frustrating struggle, but I shall soldier on.

23 Things

At the library, there’s something of a sea change underway. The use of new media, blogging and other Web technologies is slowly being introduced as part of the wider fabric of how we provide services.

The fun and hilarity comes in trying to explain and introduce things like blogging, twittering and Flickring to people with varying levels of enthusiasm, experience and investment in the process and technology of it all.

The scheme is being promoted under the title ’23 Things’

The idea of course is to be able to help people using our public terminals in much the same way that we can point people at how to set up Web based email or Facebook accounts, but I’ll be interested to see what further adoption occurs within the service over time, as well as how it is driven.

It’s early days, and I’ll be keeping a weather eye on it.