On World Mental Health Day in October this year, the NHS 111 team made a pledge to increase its team of mental health first aiders. What started as nine mental health first aiders within the service is now a team of 66.
The mental health first aiders are employees who have volunteered to offer support to their colleagues. They have received additional training to spot signs and symptoms for a range of mental health conditions, provide support to someone experiencing an issue or crisis, and listen and hold supportive conversations, as well as help them access further support.
Recognising that mental health issues and suicide rates can be more prevalent among men, the team was keen to increase the number of male mental health first aiders and now has 12, known as ‘manbassadors’.
Darren Parkinson (pictured second from the right), 111 Quality and Assurance Officer, is one of the manbassadors. He explained why he wanted to become a mental health first aider: “I feel that support for everyone doing a demanding role is pivotal in our organisation. It is important to have someone who is approachable, for people to discuss things about work-related issues, but also our everyday lives.
“To have someone to listen to you, offer a level of understanding and to share your concerns with, are all important to me especially being a male, as males in their 40s, 50s or 60s are at high risk of suicide.”
Sally Rose, NHS 111 Senior Service Delivery Manager at North West Ambulance Service, said: “The NHS as a whole is experiencing a particularly busy and challenging period and in NHS 111, every member of the team is working incredibly hard to provide care and support to members of the public who need us. That’s why it’s so important we look after ourselves and each other. The mental health first aiders are just one way we support staff welfare but I think it’s very effective. I’m proud of the way our colleagues have come together to be there for one another, which reflects the professional and caring nature of our people.
“Many of us spend most of our day at work, so we all have a real opportunity to spot if a colleague is struggling with their mental health. The mental health first aid training gives us the confidence to notice the signs and step in, but I’d encourage anyone to chat to a colleague if they think they might need support.”