Margaret Reeves, managing director of RefTech, recently attended a two-day mental health first aid course. She shares her experience and the impact it’s had on her and her staff.
I have always tried to ensure that everybody at RefTech knows that they are a valued member of our team, and that everyone’s welfare is equally as important.
But as someone who has experienced personally the impact of mental ill health, I wanted to learn more about it and develop a better insight and knowledge as to how I could help our employees if or when needed.
Before going on the course, my initial thought was “two days out of the office, I can’t afford the time,” but the course kept my full attention and I’m so glad I did make the time to attend. To say that it was tough going, interesting and mind-blowing is an understatement. I can’t even begin to describe all of the emotions and thoughts that I experienced over the two days. I came away from the course with a far better understanding of the difficulties people may face, and more importantly I learnt that everyone can and does deal with every scenario in a different way.
I’ve realised that more and more people either have, or are suffering from, mental health issues or indeed mental ill health; and I’ve learnt that they are two very different things.
One of the key messages that I gleaned from the course was that life occasionally just takes over – we get consumed in our own lives and sometimes we just don’t see what is going on around us. Just asking someone if they are OK, may give them the courage to say, “Actually, no I am not” and maybe open up. Of course, they may not, but they will see and appreciate that you cared enough to ask.
Since completing the course at the beginning of April, I can honestly say I am thinking about things very differently. I’m now a lot more conscientious about making time for people and taking the time to listen properly when people talk to me. Discussing mental health issues with your employer can be a hard thing to do because it has always been shrouded with taboo. Making it an acceptable topic of discussion is the first step for every employer, and a positive benefit to an employee who is suffering. Just going on the course can be an important signal to your team, showing them that you do care and that their mental health is important to you and something that you would be happy to discuss.
I’ve shared my training experiences with my team, and we now have posters around our offices as visual reminders to reinforce that mental health is not a taboo subject; the feedback I received from the staff has been really positive.
My door has always been open and I am here to listen, and that will never change, but by being more open and acceptable to discussions and by ensuring that everyone knows this, we have taken a major step towards ensuring that our staff are happier and healthier in their working lives.