West Midland Trains Case Study

Breaking down barriers: The impact of tailored First Aid Mental Health training

Mental Health First Aid

The following is an extract taken from the blog ‘Suitable and Sufficient’. Written by Nicola Baillie, Safety and Environment Business Partner (Standards and Assurance) at West Midlands Trains.

What To Do If You Come Across A Person In Crisis

The training we opted for, as just one part of our strategy – which was to train people at the sharp end – was the Mental Health First Aider course. This course that has been recognised nationally, even garnering approval from ministers who want the program rolled out through UK schools. Our strategy for this training has been in two stages:

  1. The initial training was delivered to senior managers with the intent not only to create competency across the different business functions, but also to help this group (who were largely members of our Mental Health Steering Group) gain a stronger knowledge base to better advocate for both our strategy and the ongoing work on destigmatising speaking about mental health.
  2. The most recent group was more about maximising accessibility. We have been incredibly lucky in having such a huge interest from a great number of people from across the business who are for their own reasons highly motivated to do something about mental health in their local workplace. We were therefore able to pick those people that are closer to the frontline and covering as much space geographically.

The balance of practical advice and background information had a number of positive effects that I didn’t initially expect but we are certainly reaping the benefits of: going FAR beyond simply furnishing attendees with a ‘how-to’ guide for what to do with someone in crisis. From the responses and experiences of people who have took the course, four key threads emerged:

  1. A lot of people have had what can only be described as a ‘Road to Damascus’ moment, leaving with a better understanding of their own experiences, not only a better understanding of the people around them
  2. Similarly, a lot of people realised a lot of preconceptions and judgements we all have been socialised into and carry around with us – even in a group that have self-selected as advocates for supporting the mental health strategy in the business, myself included!
  3. Knowing more about what mental health and mental ILL health is, makes for a better manager – it boosts confidence and has made people less afraid or awkward to ask the difficult, but relevant, questions

A massive thank you to the wonderful Heather Beach and Lauren Applebey from The Healthy Work Company. This is a great next step in our Mental Health Strategy as we’re gearing up our industry-leading work in managing Mental Health.

What the result of all this has been is not just giving people some skills to take away, but has instead turned at least some of the people that have attended into not just supporters but advocates.