James Lee
- 2 February 2023

Time to talk… to our Mental Health First Aider

Glass roof inside a modern office building

What made you want to volunteer to be a mental health first aider at Crown?

Crown Gas & Power offered me the opportunity to train as a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) about 18 months ago, just as many of us began returning to the office after lockdown, and I was keen to get involved due to my own experiences with mental health.

I found myself struggling due to poor mental health while at university, and one of the hardest things initially was knowing who to speak to, what support would be available, and how to access it. Eventually, a lecturer of mine at the time was able to spot the signs that I was struggling and offered to talk.

Looking back, that offer to talk was the beginning of a turning point. The practical guidance and information they gave me helped me in seeking access to the tools and support needed to manage my mental health more effectively moving forward, and the genuine offer to not only talk, but to listen and accept, made me feel less alone in that moment.

I hoped I would be able to do that that for someone else if they found themselves struggling.

Do you have to be a trained MHFA to talk about mental health?      

No, everybody has mental health so anybody can (and should) talk about it.

It doesn’t need to be formal, every conversation matters, from catching up over a cup of tea, to texting a friend you haven’t seen in a while, they can all be an opportunity to check-in how someone is feeling.

Charities like Mind want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to talk about mental health and wellbeing and have published several ‘Tips for talking’ on their website.

What is the importance of dedicated days like ‘Time to Talk’ – shouldn’t we be talking about mental health every day?

We want to create a society where everyone feels comfortable talking about mental health – whenever they like. If people feel able to do that now, that’s great.

Unfortunately, many people still don’t feel comfortable talking openly. By asking everyone to talk about mental health at a shared moment in time, it is hoped people will discover a positive experience, absent of any judgment, and that they will continue to talk whenever they want or need to.

How can the workplace encourage conversations around mental health and wellbeing?

There is a lot of historical, societal, and cultural stigma to contend with when it comes to speaking about mental health. The key is that the workplace is seen as an open and supportive environment.

At Crown Gas & Power we try to create this through:

  • Encouraging regular one-to-one conversations between employees and managers, to talk about any issues they may be having.
  • Access to in-office Mental Health First Aiders
  • Access to helpline support and counselling through our Employee Assistance Programme
  • Access to a wealth of health and wellbeing resources through the ‘My Healthy Advantage App’
  • Our charity partnership with a local mental health organisation – Rochdale and District Mind

What’s the hardest thing about being Mental Health First Aider?

Seeing my face around the office.

The marketing department helped design some posters to remind colleagues that I always have time to talk and am here to listen. It’s great that the message is becoming more common place, and any reference to mental health and or wellbeing in the workplace is a step to breaking down the stigma.

But they could have used a better photo of me.