BFAWU Learning Team train as Mental Health First Aiders

Unions are ideally positioned to promote good mental health at work – and the Learning Services team from the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Unions have all just completed training so they can increase that support.

BFAWU Learning Services team

The team have been actively promoting and supporting learning around Mental Health for members in the workplaces they cover and saw the training as a way to further increase their understanding of the issues and ways they can help members.

The BFAWU has access to “Let’s talk about mental health” awareness course and Mental Health First Aid training for members and reps. Last October, the English Project Team were all trained as Mental Health First Aiders.

With an estimated 1 in 6 workers experiencing depression, anxiety or problems relating to stress at any one time and those with a long-term mental health condition likely to lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health condition the course was very important to the team.

Project Worker Ben Lee said:

Doing the course has made me feel more at ease of dealing with a situation if it did arise either in the workplace or home life with the way they drilled ALGEE into us it’s something that I don’t think I will ever forget.”

The ALGEE model Ben talks about is a five-step action plan for Mental Health First Aid and stands for:

* Assess for risk of suicide or harm

* Listen non-judgmentally

* Give reassurance and information

* Encourage appropriate professional help

* Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Project Administrator Julie Oakley explained what was involved:

The training covered a wide range of mental health issues and taught how to spot signs of people in distress. It also gave some really important messages about changing the language we use when referring to Mental Health issues in the hope that it prevents the stigma attached to mental health.”

Fellow Project Worker Kamran Ali could see the benefits straight away and said:

By doing the Mental health first aid training I am now better able to look after my own well-being as well as those that I come in contact with.”

Whilst colleague John Fox added:

The course gave me a better understanding and knowledge of what I had to look for and how to get help quickly.”

The training idea was put forward by Project Manager Lisa Greenfield as Project Worker Karen Plasom explained:

When Lisa suggested we do this training I was intrigued to find out what it was all about. We can see an injury, it’s evident, it’s there in front of us, but we can’t always see when someone’s not coping or when they are in turmoil.”

Though it was difficult at times Project Worker Carol Hillaby felt it very useful and said:

Whilst this was a tough two days it was so worth it, and I would recommend this to anyone who will listen.”

Lisa said afterwards that she was extremely proud of the team for taking on this training, adding that:

It’s a really hard and sensitive subject but if we can help just one person, it will have been worth it!”

Lisa also encouraged members of the union to contact Project Workers if they have any areas around mental health they feel the union can support them and their colleagues in.