5-step guide to implement mental health training

by John Hilton04 Dec 2015
In times gone by, mental health training focused more on skilling up clinicians and less on the L&D of employees, said Nataly Bovopoulos, Deputy CEO at Mental Health First Aid Australia. 

She explained to L&D Professional that the idea of 'mental health first aid' was conceived in 2000, and based on the traditional model of first aid.

“Until recently, MHFA has been embraced in industries like healthcare and the public service in order to train staff who work in 'frontline' roles with people who might be at increased risk of a mental health problem,” said Bovopoulos.

“However, we are now starting to see major employers like Lendlease and the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright adopt MHFA training into their L&D programs and we’re confident more businesses will follow suit.” 

Bovopoulos added that the MHFA Program is the only internationally recognised evidence-based anti-stigma mental health training program for workplaces.

“MHFA training leads to improved knowledge of mental illness, confidence to help someone with a mental illness, and reduces unhelpful stigmatising attitudes that can prevent people from seeking help early,” she told L&D Professional

The courses can either consist of 12 hours of face-to-face training or a blended format that includes six hours of e-learning and a 3.5-hour face-to-face session.

The 12-hour standard MHFA Course involves instructors using tailored videos and scenarios. 

“However, our aim is to make mental health training more widely-accessible, particularly for workplaces who find it difficult to release their staff to attend 12 hours of training, by offering a blended version of this course,” said Bovopoulos.

On the other hand, the blended MHFA Course combines a 6-hour self-paced e-learning component with a follow-up half-day face-to-face session.

The e-learning component runs through all the course curriculum, whilst the face-to-face follow-up session provides an opportunity for revision and examining the issues in more depth.
It also contains group exercises to apply the MHFA Action Plan to scenarios and discusses a 'where to from here?' in using mental health first aid skills in the workplace. 

Bovopoulos offered the following tips for L&D practitioners to effectively deal with mental health issues in the workplace:
  • Offer MHFA training to all workers. This involves two days of face-to-face training (or six hours of e-learning plus a half day follow-up session face-to-face) with an accredited MHFA instructor.
  • Next, encourage workers who have completed training to become an accredited MHFAider. Following a standardised assessment, this makes them eligible to be appointed as an MHFA officer.
  • Develop and implement a MHFA policy for your workplace with key stakeholders including trained MHFAiders, HR, and WHS officers. MHFA Instructors can provide some guidance on developing these policies during training.
  • Appoint a number of suitable and willing accredited MHFAiders as MHFA Officers.
  • Establish, maintain, promote and support a broad, diverse and accessible network of MHFA Officers across the workplace.