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MENTAL HEALTH – Claire Valentine talks about qualifying as Quadrant’s first Mental Health First Aider and the therapeutic value of baking…

What does Mental Health First Aider mean?

Well, in simple terms the role of a Mental Health First Aider is the same as a physical First Aider, to be the first point of contact for someone who is experiencing a Mental Health issue or suffering emotional distress. We are trained to listen, offer support or information, and help that person to get the correct and appropriate professional help.

Why did you decide to complete the Mental Health First Aid course?

I have personally suffered from severe Mental Health issues in the past and have been at the lowest point.  Luckily, I had the support around me to get me through the other side.  Unfortunately, others aren’t as lucky, so I wanted to be able to use my experience to help others in a similar situation.  Without the correct support and professional help, things can get worse and this is why I felt it was important to go through the training.  Mental Health isn’t as openly discussed as physical health and this needs to change, but it can’t without people taking that step to understand and learn about what Mental Health is, or how to support someone experiencing it.

Who was the course run by?

The course was created and accredited by Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA England) but given by SkillBase First Aid.  There are many other providers who are accredited by MHFA England to deliver the course, and I know one of the providers is the Lighthouse Construction Charity.

What did the course entail?

The course was four half days of online training which was given by a trained and qualified instructor.  All the delegates were issued with a Mental Health manual and a workbook prior to the course starting.  We spent the online training time discussing case studies and having great in-depth discussion surrounding the topics.  Once the online lesson had finished, we were assigned independent learning to do which covered the topics for the next session.  The manual is very useful as it has information surrounding all Mental Health issues, and a huge section at the back with helplines and websites for reference.  I’ve found it incredibly helpful already.

How did you find the course content?

The whole course was very informative and well done.  Some of the topics are hard to go through though as they’re incredibly emotive and if you’ve been in a situation or know someone who has, then it can really dig up those feelings.  However, everything was well handled and our course leader, Claire, was so supportive and helpful.  It’s an eye opener that’s for sure, but definitely worth doing.  It makes you realise that some of the information or terminology that we have always used is incorrect or can be quite damaging when talking to someone who is experiencing a Mental Health issue.  It’s also very educational in terms of learning about how Mental Health can occur, what can cause or trigger it and what support is out there.

What is the plan for Quadrant in terms of MHFA?

Over the course of the next 12 months, the company will be inviting other members of staff to undertake the Mental Health First Aid courses so that we have a small team of people who are appropriately trained to help any staff needing support with Mental Health issues.

How can you be contacted should one of your colleagues need some support?

Please send me an e-mail requesting a call back.  I will then find a quiet space to call you back so we can discuss everything in private.  Please be assured that everything we talk about will be in the strictest confidence unless agreed otherwise.

So, talking of Mental Health, how do you relax after a busy week in the office?

Well, aside from family time, reading and getting out of the house as much as possible, I really enjoy baking and have been creating cakes at Buttons and Bows Cakery for people since 2015.  www.buttonsandbowscakery.co.uk

Cake decorating and baking is something I really enjoy doing and find quite relaxing, so this always helps me to step away from the daily stresses and focus on something else. It keeps me occupied which is a good thing if my mind is all over the place.

It’s also a huge mood booster when a famous person ‘likes’ one of your cakes on Twitter, especially if you’re a die-hard fan of their work!

Any final thoughts?

Yes, I just want to say that you have nothing to be ashamed of if you’re experiencing Mental Health issues.  It’s ok to not be ok and there is support out there to help you through what you are feeling.  Please speak to someone and get the support you need. You will get through this, and recovery is possible.

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