Recently, we introduced Design Development Engineer, Danny Morris as our Mental Health First Aider. Danny was keen to take up this role at HD recognising that Mental Health impacts us all whether that be directly or, indirectly.
What is a Mental Health First Aider?
A Mental Health First Aider’s role in the workplace is to act as a first point of contact for people with mental health issues, providing support and guidance to their colleagues. As well as being someone to talk to whenever they are struggling, a mental health first aider also acts as an advocate for mental health in the workplace, helping to reduce stigmas and enact positive change.
Mental health first aiders are not trained therapists or counsellors and cannot give a clinical diagnosis as to what mental health issue a person is suffering from. They should not be seen as a replacement for proper treatment of mental health issues. Instead, they are a way to identify both the symptoms and causes of mental health problems and suggest ways that both things can be resolved.
Having completed his training, Danny took some time to discuss his learnings, debunk myths and share the importance of awareness & communication with regards to mental health whether that be within or, outside of the workplace. In addition, Danny spoke of the stigma surrounding mental health conditions. While stigma is not limited to these conditions, attitudes towards psychiatric illnesses tend to be more negative than those toward physical conditions. Research has shown that stigma is one of the leading risk factors contributing to poor mental health outcomes and stigma can lead to delays in treatment. It also reduces the chances that a person with mental illness will receive appropriate and adequate care. Danny also discussed a variety of mental health conditions, their symptoms, statistics, similarities & differences – in particularly conditions that we stereotypically bundle together as one for example, Anxiety & Depression. Some of the myths surrounding mental health conditions that Danny shared included:
“Mental Health problems are uncommon” – 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England
“People with Mental Health conditions cannot work” – It is true that someone living with a particularly severe mental health condition might be unable to carry out regular work. However, most people with a mental health illness can be as productive as individuals without mental health disorders.
“Mental Health problems are a sign of weakness” – This is no truer than saying that a broken leg is a sign of weakness. Mental health disorders are illnesses, not signs of poor character. Similarly, people with, for instance, depression, cannot “snap out of it” any more than someone with diabetes or psoriasis can immediately recover from their condition.
“Mental Health problems are permanent” – A mental health diagnosis is not necessarily a “life sentence.” Everyone’s experience with mental illness is different. Some people might experience episodes, between which they return to their version of “normal.” Others may find treatments — medication or talking therapies — that restore balance to their lives.
Despite working heavily in the medical device and healthcare space, we all learned something. A shared feeling amongst the team was that this should be something we continue to encourage learning and discussion around moving forward.
This year, Mental Health Awareness Week will take place from the 10th-16th May 2021 and the theme is ‘Nature’ with encouragement to take action and get active outdoors. Research has proven that nature plays a critical role in our mental health, even more so over the past year during the pandemic.
At HD, we often take a moment out of designing for a mid-afternoon stroll around the technology park we’re based on. This week, we encouraged the team to start the week by getting outdoors whether it be for a stroll, a picnic or even a trip to a beer garden and recognise the benefits of taking time out to get outdoors.