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Why all managers should get a Mental Health First Aid certification

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Even before the pandemic, the stigma around mental health was starting to get lifted as more voices around the industry focused on the importance of voicing one's concerns, and seeking prompt help whenever possible.

If anything, the pandemic could only amplify that feeling. With more people suffering from loneliness and discouraging thoughts, mental health has taken the centre stage and it is now imperative for managers to get trained properly, so that employees can find support and assistance wherever needed.

In some corners of the industry, this has already started, and MFHA (Mental Health First Aid England) is providing comprehensive training to all those agencies and managers looking to learn more about mental health. Drawing on his recent Mental Health First Aider certification experience, Andrew Riddle shares below his perspective as a Managing Partner of RAPP about why all managers should do the same.

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A virtuous cycle: What happens when we train managers in mental health first aid?

I recently attended a two-day training programme in partnership with Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA), an organisation whose vision is to improve the mental health of the nation. A lofty north star, but such a purposeful and extremely valued remit.

The topic of mental health, which until recently was tinged with a high degree of stigma, is now a critical ingredient of any company’s corporate strategy. At RAPP, embracing mental health is at the core of a variety of high-profile wellbeing initiatives, especially with hybrid working practices becoming the norm and hundreds of talented employees earning a living in some form of isolation.

Our business takes mental health seriously. We want every person in our agency to thrive, be healthy and get as much job fulfilment as possible every day. Our efforts as a global networked organisation are not one off, but an ongoing commitment that we pioneer, not just in words, but with actions. 

That’s why RAPP invested the time and money for me to train and learn the theoretical and practical tools to assist my colleagues when needed – to be a wellbeing champion.

There’s pride in completing the MHFA certificate, but the potential impact to our agency runs deep. It allows me and other trained colleagues to understand what mental health is and how to challenge any over-hanging stigmas. My knowledge of mental health has been boosted along with my confidence to help ignite the awareness both in the workplace and at home. We’re a people industry, in a communications discipline that’s incredibly demanding and so for me, being able to spot the signs of mental health provides peace of mind – knowing that I can potentially make a difference – now and tomorrow.

Making a difference is crucial for me. My management style has always been hands on and integrating the mental health initiatives as part of my day-to-day interactions and collaborations is pivotal to boosting team morale and performance. These needn’t be big and bold initiatives, but small things that have a disproportionate effect on wellbeing. Daily and weekly one-to-one meetings with colleagues is a great way for me to listen, learn and offer counsel. Listening is paramount, especially when being able to spot signs that an individual is potentially having a challenging time. And listen we must.

This ethic of listening has already paid dividends for me. Not only in one-to-one meetings, but importantly in mentorship sessions; the latter is equally intrinsic to our fabric at RAPP, being a buddy to another colleague, actively playing a neutral role in helping manage and provide impartial advice to an individual’s career. 

To be effective though, one has to ignite a trusting bond with your buddy and/or working colleague. Without this, there’s no chance of establishing a forum of being able to talk freely and in confidence. 

I have readily seen and acted on signs of distress. These have come in the form of me helping deal with a challenging new client, managing expectations on project timings and importantly, re-setting better governance on work-life balance. The latter, when optimising mental health, is pivotal to our overall wellbeing. We quickly collaborated and took steps to minimise email volume before and after hours, and to be respectful of part time working and periods of holiday.

The net of these actions, in terms of isolating the issues and readily providing (quick win) solutions, has led to improved self-esteem of some colleagues, more ‘me’ time and from what I can report, improved happiness. Our recent survey scores for the account I manage illustrated a team who has a strong sense of cohesiveness and generally enjoy a healthy score of happiness. Although not perfect, establishing a strong team ethic, allowing an openness to talk and help each other, powers a match fit team, one whom I care about immensely.

I’m proud to work for RAPP – RAPP care about me and I care about my valued colleagues. The training session with MHFA is a super example of our agency being a category leader, delivering positive change in a sustained way. At RAPP, we’re obsessive about individuality and the need for mental health first aiders and practitioners. This is not just about today, but it’s about being progressive, ensuring that as we go further, we successfully embrace a modern and more inclusive agency world – championing a mentally healthy world.

Andrew Riddle is Managing Partner at RAPP.

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