Life at Catalyst

The importance of our mental health first aiders

By October 8, 2021No Comments

Around one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year. The other three in four will probably experience supporting their partners, children, family, friends and work colleagues through mental health challenges. 

It’s an issue that affects us all, and because of this, we wanted to recognise it at Catalyst as equally important to physical health.  

That’s why we have a team of Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs) who are on hand to help people get the support they need. 

Sioux Watchorn, Colleague Experience and Wellbeing Partner, is one of 20 MHFAs at Catalyst. She explains the important role they fulfil, and how their support is making a positive difference in colleague’s lives.

What inspired you to become a mental health first aider?

I have a mental health condition, which I have managed for over a decade, so I know first-hand the difference a mental health first aider can make. At a previous employer I contacted an MHFA who really helped me by listening, non-judgementally, and supporting me by signposting me to services that I could reach out to for help. I wanted to pay this forward to my Catalyst colleagues, so we’ve increased the number of MHFAs we have here to help us be as available for colleagues as they need us to be. 

Why are mental health first aiders important in the workplace?

Mental health first aid is such an important component in our wellbeing offering. Having trained colleagues available that can listen, non-judgementally, when needed helps to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. It can often be the first step on a colleague’s journey to getting the right help, speaking to their manager and understanding their situation. As a company we have the value of ‘show kindness’ and I feel as MHFAs we do that every day. There’s also the business impact in that we can help reduce sickness absence related to poor mental health if colleagues engage with us and get support. 

What is an example of a scenario a mental health first aider may be needed?

A situation I had recently was a colleague who had lost a very close family member and was struggling to cope with their feelings of grief and loss. They’d had trouble sleeping, eating, performing normal tasks and they didn’t know how to approach their manager to tell them why their performance had dipped. We talked through their anxiety and apprehension and roleplayed what they would say to their manager, so they felt confident they could articulate themselves clearly. I also suggested they contact their GP to talk through their situation. The colleague came back to me a few months later and was in a much better space having talked to their manager, seen their GP and sought help to cope. It was so rewarding to hear the difference I made for that colleague. 

What advice would you give someone that is struggling to ask for help?

That it’s okay to not be okay. Struggling is not a weakness and admitting you need help is actually an incredibly brave thing to do. 

We’ve seen conversations around mental health change and improve over the past few years – what would you like to see next to take this even further?

For it to become further normalised. I think there is more work to be done to support men opening up about their struggles and issues. You need only look at the suicide rates to see that men need support too. I’d also like to see schools and universities continue to teach about the signs, symptoms and support available for our children and young adults.