In February, Adam and Miranda went along to Adult Mental Health First Aid Training with our amazing charity partner, Oxfordshire Mind. Yoga Quota is committed to making sure our teachers have training that helps support the teaching that they do both in the studio and for our more vulnerable clients. Here, they share their experiences of the training!
What were your top 3 take-aways from Adult Mental Health First Aid Training?
MHFA uses the acronym ALGEE as an action plan to assist someone through a mental health crisis, or someone whose mental health you are concerned about
‘Give support and information’ has stuck with me in particular – because its not ‘give advice’! Often we want to help but we don’t know exactly how to, or even if its our place to do so. But by providing support and information – to a friend, colleague, or anyone – you are doing them a greater service by showing you are there to help them find the most appropriate support network for what they are going through.
Prevention and early intervention are key – good mental health needs to be maintained, just like physical health. Just like taking care of ourselves physically by getting enough rest and proper nourishment, our mental health shouldn’t be neglected. Our health in its entirety is a holistic makeup of physical, mental and emotional health – and they all impact on each other. We discussed self-care and having a personal mental health first-aid kit you can call upon when things are stressful or you feel a bit wobbly – things like taking time to connect with friends, or saying no to something so you can say yes to yourself, going for a walk, having a bath.
For me, the top takeaway was the first aider’s action plan for providing responsible and effective support to someone they believe to be experiencing a crisis or developing mental health issue. First, and perhaps most challengingly, it’s about starting a conversation and really listening and attempting to understand someone else’s feelings and emotional situation. If that person is receptive to further support then the first aider might direct them to helpful resources and encourage professional assistance.
What were you most surprised to learn?
In one exercise we were tasked with pairing mental and physical illnesses on the basis of how debilitating their effects can be on a person’s day-to-day life. Even for a group already quite sensitive to the effects of mental ill health, it was still very surprising how debilitating mental illnesses can be for people experiencing them.
The employment laws around non-discrimination and disability in the workplace extend to mental health. Just as businesses have a responsibility to protect your physical health this extends to your mental health. HR should be adequately equipped to help support members of their workforce who have ongoing or sudden onsets of a mental health condition, as they would any other serious illness or disability.
I really believe that destigmatizing mental health in the workplace is incredibly significant for raising greater awareness about mental health conditions, and as work is such a cause of stress for so many people possibly helping prevent or reduce the severity mental health disorders that can be triggered or worsened by stress.
Were there any concepts or ideas that have transformed your perception of mental health?
Actually, yes – the training completely changed my understanding of the relationship between “mental illness” and “mental health”. Following the analogy of health and wellbeing in the body, someone experiencing a mental illness might still enjoy sound mental “health” if their illness is being appropriately managed. For someone who experiences a chronic mental illness, detaching mental wellbeing from the belief that they must be “cured” of their illness is such an empowering idea!
We considered mental health not just on a scale running from ‘good’ mental health to ‘poor’ mental health, but a multi-directional continuum. The vertical scale ran from ‘maximum mental wellbeing/fitness’ to ‘minimum mental wellbeing/fitness’, and the horizontal scale from ‘severe diagnosis’ to ‘no diagnosis’.
Throughout our lives we may move around the continuum ranging anywhere from poor mental health with no diagnosis, poor mental health with diagnosis, good mental health no diagnosis, good mental health with diagnosis. I love how it emphasises the significance of recovery and managing conditions so you can have a high quality of health and life, even for people with severe mental health conditions such as psychotic disorders. Its incredibly outdated (and unhelpful) to assume that just because someone has a diagnosis they can’t lead a fulfilled and active life, with a job and family, if they have solid support mechanisms in place.
Has the training effected your teaching or day-to-day activities in any way?
Before I was always concerned how I should bring up mental health issues with people I may be concerned about. What was intrusive? What was the right tone/wording? Its really challenging when you suspect someone may be hurting, but don’t know how to reach out to them.
Since the course I have realised how important it is to offer support to someone who you think maybe suffering from mental health issues - even if they don’t react ‘well’ at that moment. It’s better to reach out. Being equipped with ALGEE as a protocol is really useful as well, especially in a professional environment.
I would highly recommend the course, to help expand your knowledge about various mental health conditions and raise positive awareness to help combat what has become a poor mental health endemic.
The cherry on top of the course actually happened during lunch break one day! One of the staff members at Mind shared with us how much of a positive impact Yoga Quota’s classes have had on the individuals she works with through the charity. Many of them have reported that practising yoga has been a hugely supportive, nourishing and enjoyable way for helping them to take care of themselves and instrumental in their journey to greater health. So a huge huge huge thank you to all our lovely students who come through the studio and make this possible! You are appreciated more than you know!
Its most substantial effect has been to reinforce in me an attitude of compassion and openness about mental health concerns and emotional wellbeing. It’s made me more comfortable with not forcing advice or sharing relatable experiences, but instead really listening and understanding how others are feeling.