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MHFAs need to know their boundaries, says health provider

Mental health first aiders (MHFAs) need support now more than ever, says personal nurse service RedArc.

Act on this now, during Mental Health Awareness Week
Act on this now, during Mental Health Awareness Week

The increase in mental health support required in the workplace, in recent years, has seen the rise in popularity of training volunteers to become MHFAs. However, the COVID-19 crisis could be putting extra strain on these individuals.


Christine Husbands, managing director of RedArc, said: “Being an MHFA is an additional responsibility that individual employees decide to take on, but at the present moment they may be finding that an increasing proportion of their working time is spent supporting others.


“MHFAs play an important role in an overall health and wellbeing strategy of an organisation, but employers need to ensure they are properly supported too. As nurses, we understand first-hand the importance of this and have formal support processes in place for our own nurses.”


RedArc has provided a list of practical steps that employers can take to provide emotional support to their MHFAs:

  • A buddy system – a one-on-one where MHFAs have a regular opportunity to talk to the same individual, where they can build up a rapport and feel able to discuss how they are feeling.
  • A group session for all MHFAs facilitated by a professional, where everyone has the opportunity to share experiences, best practice, tips and support one other.
  • A secure online forum where issues can be shared immediately – sometimes waiting for a buddy chat or a group session means an issue can escalate in the MHFA’s mind.
  • Refresher courses can be really useful once someone has been in the role for some time and has experience of what’s required of them.
  • Monitor the workload of MHFAs and ensure that they are not taking on too much beyond the remit of an MHFA.
  • Offer MHFAs additional ‘mental wellbeing time’, where they are given flexibility to ensure good self-care or access to complementary therapies.
  • Most importantly, all MHFAs should also have direct access to a clinically trained mental health professional themselves, to discuss any difficulties they are having and to ensure that the role doesn’t take a toll on their own mental wellbeing.

MHFA training provides guidance on setting boundaries, as the individual MHFA is only supposed to be a point of contact for employees experiencing a mental health problem so they can signpost them to help if needed; they do not replace the need for trained professionals.


Husbands added: “There is no doubt that being an MHFA can be a very rewarding role, but it doesn’t come without its challenges and risks. Particularly at this moment in time, MHFAs need to know their boundaries, when to ask for help and know that they are supported individually and collectively by their employer, ideally with access to professional support themselves.”

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