First Aid for your mind | Erica Wolfe-Murray

By Erica Wolfe-Murray

Mental HealthI was due to speak at a big online event. During the lead-up to it emails were flying around but one in particular caught my eye. At the bottom of an email I spotted an unfamiliar logo. It announced my contact was a mental health first aider.

With 10th October being World Mental Health Day, I was curious – what is mental health first aid?

My email correspondent, James Davis, was UK Customer Strategy and Insight Director for Commercial Vehicles at Cox Automotive, one of the US’s largest private companies. Warm, open and obviously good at what he does, when I contacted James to find out about mental health first aid, he readily admitted that yes, like so many of the working population, he too has struggled at times with his own mental health.

According to the ONS 2014 figures a phenomenal 91 million workdays are lost annually to mental health issues. The British working population was not in a particularly good place mentally before the pandemic and this is likely to be exacerbated by the last few months. A Deloitte’s report sets the cost to employers at up to £45 billion per year.

So anything we can do to help and support people with mental health issues when the NHS is so overstretched has to be a good idea.

James told me that six weeks ago he and several colleagues did the two-day online course offered by social enterprise, MHFA England. The second tranche of Cox Automotive staff to participate, the course takes a similar approach to the St John’s Ambulance first aiding. It doesn’t teach you to diagnose but to observe, approach, assess and signpost help to someone that may be experiencing mental health difficulties.

Similar to the issues prevalent in the tech industry, James is the first to admit that working in the male-dominated automotive industry has seen him work unhealthy hours, take on undue pressures without taking his mental health seriously. Aware that things have to change, he is open to colleagues and others in the automotive sector about the importance of developing good mental health practice.

His two-day MHFA course was attended solely by Cox Automotive employees – James being the 42nd from the company to participate with a further 16 planned to be trained by year end. The 10-year old social enterprise also works with companies like Deloitte, with mental health first aid training programmes available for the military, universities and schools.

The training ensures participants have a wider understanding about mental health. Backed up with practical skills to spot signs and triggers, the first aiders are given the confidence to step in to reassure and support someone showing signs of distress. It enhances their interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening whilst building their knowledge base. James added ‘They also teach practical, simple tips – such as asking if your local practice has a GP that specialises in mental health, or requesting a double doctor’s appointment to give you time to talk, through to how to contact the emergency services if you believe someone is threatening to end their life.’.

As we talked on – I began to realise how vital it is that we all learn how to look after both our own mental health and that of others. I’ve done some basic first aid training but never thought about it for my mind. And as James commented ‘Your mind doesn’t come with a user manual, so how do you know whether it is working well or not?’.

So if you want to learn a practical skill this autumn – why not contact the MHFA and sign up for a course? It will help you, your team and could save someone’s life.

Support URLs:

Mental health first aid courses :

Hub of Hope – national mental health support database for you to find nearby support

Clinical Partners work with individuals, families and organisations :

Personal Group offers an employee wellbeing programme :

Sanctus offers mental health coaching :

Clementine app offers calming/hypnotherapy :

Mind mental health charity :

Calm app :

AnxietyUK charity for help with anxiety with therapists at discounted rates and also discount on Calm App

Erica Wolfe MurrayAbout the author

Erica Wolfe-Murray works across the creative, cultural and tech sector helping companies to innovate through imaginative use of their intellectual assets/IP.  Referred to by as ‘a leading innovation and business expert’, she is the author of ‘Simple Tips, Smart Ideas: Build a Bigger, Better Business’ . Full of her usual easy-to-use advice, lots of case studies, quick tips, diagrams and innovative ways to think about growing your business and developing greater commercial resilience – its 288 full colour pages will help you transform your business.  Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.



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