An in-depth look at our mental health qualifications

Heather Beach, Managing Director and founder of The Healthy Work Company

This week we launched our brand new mental health qualifications, so we asked Heather Beach, Managing Director and founder of The Healthy Work Company – one of the organisations which assisted Highfield in the development of the qualifications – to provide us with an in-depth look. 

Mental Health Training – qualifications explained
As someone who runs a training organisation in mental health awareness, today, on World Mental Health Day I am delighted to be talking about the release of regulated qualifications in mental health through Highfield Qualifications – including an option for Introduction to First Aid for Mental Health.

Why are these needed?
Companies are realising that happy, well employees are more productive and engaged. At the same time, we are seeing a rise in the severity of common mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression and burnout.  These courses aim to provide organisations with regulated, assessed Mental Health training which supports individuals in understanding themselves better as well as the tools for better conversations about mental health – for managers and peers alike.

Ofqual regulated qualifications require a great deal of peer review in terms of creation of the learning outcomes, the assessments, the selection and ongoing supervision of instructors.

What are the qualifications?
The qualifications are predicated upon the fact that everybody needs an Introduction to General Mental Health Awareness – so before embarking on either of the further courses which deal with the approach to conversations, everyone must pass the level 2 Mental Health Awareness unit which is about 4 hours of guided learning.

Then because managers make an enormous difference for the mental health of the people in their teams, and because they have specific legal responsibilities, there is Introduction to Mental Health in the workplace for Managers which is a Level 3 qualification.

There is a further qualification for those who wish to support colleagues in the workplace – Introduction to First Aid for Mental Health which is a Level 2 qualification. 

What is new?
These qualifications can be offered anywhere in the world rather than being restricted to a certain territory. 

The Stevenson Farmer review published in 2017 said, “We start from the position that the correct way to view mental health is that we all have it and we fluctuate between thriving, struggling and being ill and possibly off work”.   These qualifications, therefore, look at us as human beings and the fact that we can all struggle from time to time with mental distress.

The qualifications also look at our responses to stress or pressure and how we can improve those.  They spend as much time looking at how we can learn to thrive in life as they do looking at mental illnesses.

In First Aid for Mental Health, the First Aider is encouraged to consider boundaries and what the organisation is offering in terms of further support. There is a clear distinction made between a management conversation and that of a First Aider for mental health conversation.

Finally, because of the fact that your training organisation is delivering a set of clear learning outcomes but is not restricted in terms of the content they deliver which supports these, there is an opportunity with some training organisations to tailor aspects of the content to your organisation. This may include the role of the First Aider in your organisation and the next points of support for example.  Some trainers, including ourselves, will also develop case studies for specific organisations so that the listening exercises are more relevant.

Qualifications will not be for everyone. As assessment is made of the ability to have a conversation as well as the knowledge aspects and whilst obviously your tutor will work with the cohort to ensure that as many pass as possible, there may be some who struggle. This is something to consider in terms of who you put forward for the programmes.

Who are they suitable for?
These qualifications are suitable for those who wish to expand their knowledge on what mental health looks like for human beings as well as improve their confidence and ability in having conversations with someone in mental distress.  Participants need to be 16 and over and have a good level of English.

They are probably most suitable for delivery in a workplace setting – large or small. They provide, as their titles say, introductions to the topics so they are not designed for mental health professionals, nor should you expect to become a therapist or a life coach as a result of these qualifications.

Heather Beach is fascinated by what makes people thrive in life and the part work can play in this. She runs a business specialising in Mental Health and Stress Management for corporates and is an ex-Director for a global company, where she ran their health and safety business division publishing magazines, running conferences and information services.  A student of Applied Positive Psychology (MSc), founder of Women in Health and Safety and the Barbour webinar series, she was voted in the top ten most influential people in health and safety in the UK for the second year running in 2019. She and her team at The Healthy Work Company have worked with businesses such as Eurostar, ITV, The Telegraph, Battersea Power Station, IOPC, Game and Luton Airport to support wellbeing strategy and training. As a small business owner, she tries very hard to practise what she preaches but isn’t perfect.

You can follow The Healthy Work Company on Twitter at @HealthyWorkCo 

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‘1 in 6 workers need mental health support from bosses’ warns expert

mental health support1 in 6 UK employees will experience a mental health issue during their working life – and need support from their employer to tackle it – will warn one of the UK’s top mental health support experts at a conference this autumn.

Poppy Jaman, Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), will tell delegates at the HABC National Conference on 13 November 2014 at Old Trafford Stadium that employers should train staff in mental health first aid so conditions such as anxiety, depression and panic attacks can be better identified and supported by appropriately trained employees.

Mental ill health covers a range of conditions, each with specific signs and symptoms. Mental health first aiders (MHFAiders) are trained to be aware of these and guide the affected person to relevant support. Ms Jaman will argue in her speech that mental health first aid and physical first aid should go hand in hand, and that all businesses should have employees able to provide support in both areas.

‘With 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health condition in any one year and depression and anxiety affecting 20 per cent of the UK working population, it seems sensible that mental health first aid should be considered as important as physical first aid, both in the workplace and in society generally’, said Ms Jaman.

‘Very sadly, in recent months the media has reported a number of high-profile people completing suicide – each as a result of poor mental health. These serve as stark reminders of the tragic consequences that mental ill health can have on an individual and those around them’.

She added, ‘Raising awareness of mental health and the risk of suicide continues to be as important as ever, but much like physical first aid, the situations that an MHFAider might encounter are not always life threatening. Put simply, if an employee breaks their arm in the workplace, the first point of call will be the trained physical first aider. If the same person showed signs of having a panic attack, who would be qualified to support them?

By training people in mental health first aid, we are teaching participants how to spot the signs and symptoms of the most common health conditions and how to guide the affected person to appropriate support. With 77,000 people in the UK already MHFA trained, our mission is to train 1 in 10 people in England to be qualified MHFAiders’.

Christian Sprenger, HABC Managing Director, said, ‘Sadly mental health in the workplace is a growing issue, but one that employers are able to contribute to positively. Having staff appropriately trained so that they can help their colleagues, support them as necessary and point them to professional help can contribute to the overall wellbeing of both employees and businesses as a whole. Poppy Jaman is the UK’s leading advocate for mental health first aid, and her presentation will be of huge interest to anyone involved in the issue of employee welfare and mental health’.

Notes to editors:
1. Highfield Awarding Body for Compliance (‘HABC’) is one of the UK’s leading Awarding Organisations for vocational qualifications.
2. The first aid seminar is one of seven that make up the HABC National Conference covering a number of sectors including apprenticeships, fire safety/health and safety, food safety, licensing, pool lifeguarding and security.
3. Cost per attendee is £135+VAT for HABC Approved Centres and £195+VAT for non-Centres, with discounts available for early and multiple bookings.
About Mental Health First Aid England:
4. MHFA England is a Community Interest Company, established in 2009.
5. MHFA is the mental health equivalent of physical first aid training and provides participants with the skills and confidence to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues and effectively guide a person towards the right support services.
6. As well as the standard MHFA course, the organisation runs a number of bespoke courses including Youth MHFA, MHFA Lite, Armed Forces MHFA and MHFA Workplace.