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Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Skills To Help People
Mental health first aid (MHFA) is provided to someone who is developing a mental illness, having a mental crisis, or someone with a worsening of an existing mental illness. The skills required to provide are basic and easy enough for anyone in society to learn and be of help.
What are Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Skills?
The basic skills required to provide Mental Health First Aid are summarised in the action plan of the program, which is ALGEE. ALGEE consists of 5 key elements that were found consistent across many different guidelines.
5 Key Elements of Mental Health First Aid
Step 1: Approach the person, assess and assist with any crisis
The first step in the action plan is to approach the person, find if there is any crisis they are experiencing and identify what the crisis is and help them deal with it. The skills needed for this step of Mental Health First Aid are:
- First, make sure the person is safe and comfortable to speak.
- To be aware of the signs and symptoms of common mental illness and mental health crises such as suicide and self-harm.
- Questioning the person to identify the crisis without invading their privacy.
- If the person does not say anything, you have to initiate a conversation.
Step 2: Listen non-judgmentally
Most of the time, it is seen that people suffering from mental illness want to be heard. Listening may sound like a small thing to do, but in many cases, it can have a tremendous effect. Even for a person without any mental health issue, under a stressful situation, being heard can give the kind of relief that an intervention would give. Skills needed:
- Verbal and non-verbal gestures of listening are needed- When the person is telling you about their difficulty, you are required to give verbal cues (such as “hmm” “yes” or “ok”) and non-verbal cues (such as nodding or leaning forward) that indicate that you are paying attention.
- Listening empathetically and not judgementally- While listening you have to keep aside any kind of judgments about the person or their situation. It is important to listen empathetically, putting yourself in the place of the other, and trying to understand their struggles through their eyes.
Step 3: Give support and information
Once the person feels heard, they feel safe and comfortable. Now they would be in a better position to accept any kind of support given.
- Provide emotional support- This can be achieved by empathizing, giving them hope that they would be fine, and making them feel that they are not alone.
- Providing practical help- As the aider you need to be equipped with basic exercises that can help, such as if a person is having a panic attack, you can bring them to a quiet place and coach them to breathe slowly. Also, you have to always be equipped with a list of places and professionals the person in need can approach.
Step 4: Encourage the person to get appropriate professional help
Here your role as an aider entails elaborating on the professional help available for their condition. Many times the person in need hesitates to get professional help due to the stigma attached. Hence you need to communicate the importance of this professional help and also about the outcomes if they ignore professional help.
- Be aware of the professional help available for the specific condition that the person is suffering.
- Be aware of how these professional treatments would help the person and communicate the same to the person.
Step 5: Encourage other supports
Educate them on the self-help strategies they can use to help themselves. Encourage them to involve their family and friends and get support from them. Also, educate them on how communicating with other people who have similar issues can be of great help to them.
How to Encourage someone to seek help for a mental health problem
If you notice specific signs or symptoms in others that may require immediate attention and support, encouraging them to seek professional help is essential. Here are a few steps that can help you approach this situation with ease.
- Pick a good time and place- Finding a safe, comfortable, and private space to talk is one of the most important steps to encourage them to seek help. It is also important to get their consent before addressing the matter at hand.
- Practice compassion- Try asking questions as compared to giving advice. Approaching the situation with utmost care and compassion is paramount. Further, using ‘I’ statements such as “I am worried about you” shows that you are not here to lecture or blame them. It allows them to actively listen to what you have to say.
- Normalize therapy- Making an active effort to destigmatize therapy by talking about its importance or by sharing personal experiences associated with it can also help. It is also important to remind them that therapy is not limited to serious mental disorders, rather, it focuses on any stressor or life challenge that you are facing currently.
- Offer resources- While you make the effort to persuade them into seeking therapy, it is also important to equip them with credible resources. This can look like websites, contacts, and more. You can also accompany them during their appointments and talk to them about the sessions.
Mental health first aid for someone who is suicidal
If you suspect signs of suicidality it is important to keep the main components of mental health first aid in mind. These include assessing signs, listening non-judgementally, giving support and resources, encouraging the person to seek help, and encouraging other forms of support. While you do so it is also important to make sure that the individual is safe until help arrives.
How to improve your knowledge about mental health first aid
Building on your knowledge base about mental health first aid involves referring to reliable resources, attending seminars or webinars, joining support groups, volunteering or working under experts, sharing knowledge, and reflecting on your current expertise. Being consistent with such practices can go a long way in expanding your knowledge base and expertise around mental health first aid.
Where to get help
If you need more information about Mental Health First Aid Skills or have any queries, do send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit Cadabam’s Hospitals. Alternatively, you reach us on our 24/7 helpline number- +91 97414 76476.
What are mental health skills?
Mental health skills refer to a set of abilities that facilitate an individual to take care of both their mental health and offer support to others. These skills revolve around self-awareness, emotional regulation, self-care, communication, problem-solving, distress tolerance, and more.
What is the role of a mental health first aider?
A mental health first aider (MHFA) involves someone offering support to individuals experiencing the onset of a mental illness, a mental crisis, or a deterioration in their existing mental health condition.
What is mental health first aid in psychology?
Mental health first aid (MHFA) involves offering support to individuals experiencing the onset of a mental illness, going through a mental crisis, or facing a deterioration in their existing mental health condition. The skills necessary to provide MHFA are fundamental and can be learned by anyone in society, enabling them to offer assistance when needed.
How is mental health first aid useful?
The goal of mental health first aid is to help someone facing mental illnesses or a mental health crisis. Offering a safe and supportive environment or providing an action plan for the individual can go a long way in facilitating effective coping.
How do I make a mental health first aid kit?
According to our experts, here are a few important things to include in your mental health first aid kit-
- Tools for exercise
- Mindfulness exercises
- Music playlists
How can we protect our mental health?
Here are a few techniques that can help you protect your mental health-
- A balanced diet
- Consistent sleep
- An organized routine