Kia ora koutou Mental Health First Aiders across the country.
He waka eke noa.
We are all in this together
As Mental Health First Aiders wherever you are, you may be feeling the responsibility of supporting those around you at this time.
First and foremost, we want to encourage you to pay attention to your own needs first. It’s okay to take the time to look after yourself, to feel however you are feeling, and to reach out for the support you need.
If you are feeling able to offer support to others, we write to encourage you and offer some ways to help.
New Zealanders are tightroping along the fine edge of making things feel normal and acknowledging it’s not. Yes, we are all in this together – we also know that each of us has our own experience of this time and there is no ‘one answer fits all’ approach for how to navigate this edge. What we do know is that your MHFA skills are still necessary and might be the supportive harness – so to speak – to help people understand what support looks like at this time.
We know that a supportive conversation and the opportunity to be seen and heard in our experiences can reduce the intensity of our feelings and make such a difference to our ability to cope. Hearing how someone else is feeling can also increase our sense of connection too!
Isolation is a loaded word at the moment. We want to encourage you to know that you can help and offer MHFA support even while people are in isolation. There is a difference between being isolated and feeling isolated and it just so happens to be that you can be that difference.
Using your MHFA Framework – ALGEE
A – Approach, Assess and Assist with crisis
The approach looks different – the same principle applies. Identifying if this person is at risk of harm to themselves or others. Listening for signs of crisis. Carrying out the critical steps of crisis – which are to stay on the phone or stay online with the person and seek professional help.
If it’s not a crisis: This person may be in need of a supportive conversation – Noticing any uncharacteristic changes in the person’s behaviour or communication- maybe someone is just being a bit short with you online – realizing that this could be a sign that the person is struggling, checking in at a time when you can be attentive, to see if the person is having a hard time.
L – Listen
This is about creating an opportunity for the person to share. Ask open questions, listen for feelings and ask for more.
‘How long have you been feeling this way?’
You can listen over messenger or visual comms by saying ‘i hear what you’re saying…’
G – Give support and hope
Validating the experience and feelings.
Offering hope – encouraging the person to know that although things are really hard right now, it’s not always going to feel this way, and that with some support they can get on track to feeling better.
E – Encourage appropriate professional help
Reminding the person that there are many different kinds of support, and that support looks different for everyone – what works for them might be totally different to what works for you! Researching possible support options, which might look like having a squiz on Talking Works, and finding out which therapists are doing remote sessions online. Encouraging professional support, even if this is something the person has never considered before. Asking about barriers to revisiting or exploring support options, so that you can help the person to overcome those barriers.
E – Encourage other supports
Finding out what support options have worked for this person in the past, and discovering what support options they might like to try. Helping people to redesign their support plan to suit their context – if you can’t go out to your Monday evening singing group, is there a way you could sing with your neighbour over the fence? Concentrating on helping the person to choose the one or two things that they think will work for them, that they feel confident they can do from home.
Remember that it’s normal to feel a bit nervous or afraid of where a conversation might lead. Can you notice that fear and reach out anyway? Can you remind yourself that listening is everything, that you don’t need to have answers or the perfect words – you only need to offer openness, connection, a supportive listening ear, and encouragement to get further support. You have got the tools!
Your Mental Health First Aiders at team CoLiberate.
Let us know how CoLiberate can support you!
While we are here… we are wanting to know the best way CoLiberate can contribute to your experience as a MHFAer at this time – how can we support you? would you mind answering this one question?