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Power to help

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Becoming a mental health first aider is empowering, says Aldersbrook resident Katharine McKnight, who has launched a series of courses to teach people the vital skills needed

Mental health first aid (MHFA) has become a very popular subject over the last few years. But what does it actually involve?

As with physical first aid qualifications, there is no obligation to assist. The first priority is your safety and the safety of others. With physical first aid, you are covered under the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act (2015), which protects you when you have provided reasonable assistance in an emergency. There is clearly parity needed between physical and mental health first aid, but from its infancy in Australia in 2001, the increase in training has led to greater empathy.

Whilst any individual can provide MHFA, undertaking a course can be helpful to recognise clusters of symptoms. It is a triage, not a diagnostic, tool. It provides a vital opportunity to listen, and allow others to be heard whilst encouraging them to move forward.

I first completed MHFA training in 2014, having experienced mental health concerns myself, and supporting those around me. The following year, I volunteered for 18 months with The Mix, a helpline for those under 25. In the last few years, I have myself seen a dip in my own mental health, and on recovery, I wanted to upskill to support others more effectively.

I cannot explain enough how vital informal support and signposting is to those in need. I trained as an instructor with Nuco Training. I am now able to teach Level 1, 2 and 3 via distance learning (and in person when safe to do so). It is beneficial for anyone wanting to support others or improve their own mental health. I would love everyone to have this opportunity and to empower as many people as possible to support others.

My accredited course, validated by the Regulated Qualifications Framework and valid for three years, will introduce students to the CARE model and how it can support difficult conversations whilst having a wider understanding of signs, symptoms and misconceptions.

Levels 1 and 2 provide a shorter, less comprehensive but nonetheless important knowledge base. I am taking my knowledge further by volunteering for Shout, an anonymous text support service that can be accessed by any age group by texting SHOUT to 85258. Key workers can text the word FRONTLINE to the same number.

If you are interested in finding out more about my next course, running on Thursday evenings throughout March with an assessment around Easter (or using the recording option to catch up if you cannot make the live sessions), please get in touch.


For more information on the courses, use the links below:

Level 1 (£30): https://www.nucotraining.com/first-aid-for-mental-health-l1/

Level 2 (£60): https://www.nucotraining.com/first-aid-for-mental-health-l2/

Level 3 (£120): https://www.nucotraining.com/first-aid-for-mental-health-l3/

The next Level 3 course is running on the following dates:

Thursday 4, 11, 18 and 25 March 2021, between 7:30pm and 9pm.

Level 1 and 2 courses can be booked on request.

Contact: Katharine McKnight: katharine_adair@hotmail.com or by WhatsApp 07426 742 464