For the last four years, Future Path has been delivering employment support programmes specifically for people experiencing poor mental health. Once we started in this arena, it wasn’t very long before I first heard mention of the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course. Having always been interested in the subject, I duly went along to the training and added myself to England’s 190,000-strong army of ‘MHFAers’.
Now, MHFA is a cornerstone of our organisational structure and, more importantly, culture. Every member of staff is fully trained, having attended the two-day Adult course and mentions of stress buckets and continuums are an everyday occurrence at Future Path.
On a less macro level, I was so enamoured by the course that I attended the instructor training and now happily spend time teaching the two-day, one-day and University courses, with the Youth versions being added to my portfolio in November. I’ve trained hundreds of people from within or connected to our sector and have been really impressed with the profound difference that the course has had on all attendees. As part of the evaluation, we ask people to score themselves out of ten for their confidence in dealing with someone with a mental health issue both before and after the course. The average scores are 3 and 8 respectively – that’s quite a leap in just 2 days!
Just as importantly to me, the job roles of my learners have been really diverse: Employment Advisers, DWP Work Coaches/Disability Employment Advisers, Housing Support Officers, Operational Managers, Commissioners and even Psychologists! The Work & Health Unit and the Work & Health Programme policy design staff were equally impressed with their new-found knowledge and skills.
But as excellent as I think it’s gone so far, one man can only have a limited effect in my mission to get every frontline employment support employee to join the movement. All of my delivery to date has come about through one organisation or collective supplying me with a room full of learners, but that’s only ever going to enable a limited number of people from our sector to access this crucial course. So I’m really happy to have joined forces with ERSA so that we can take the course far and wide, and handle all sizes of enquiry, right down to a single individual wanting to attend.
To have a greater impact I needed to bring in some high quality, trusted colleagues. So I’m proud to tell you how we can cover the whole of England. Through this initiative, I will be the default trainer for London and the South East. If we’ve not chatted before, I’ve been in the employment support sector for 21 years, and have my own lived experience of severe depression and panic disorder. I’m the big mouth of the group, but figure that that’s okay if volume should be proportionate to size!
The East of England (but also able to deliver nationally) will be the domain of Steph Barlow. If that’s not a name that you’re familiar with, “Queen B” has been in our sector for as long as me, and has an encyclopaedic grasp of any subject matter that she deals with.
The North will be covered by a name that I don’t expect you to know, Mr Andy Flockton. Andy’s the opposite of Steph and me, with a massive background in actually delivering mental health support services. Andy was the trainer for my instructor training and has an amazing wealth of knowledge and experience as a mental health practitioner. As a national trainer for MHFA England, he is heavily involved in the development of all MHFA courses. As with Steph, although Andy has his “home patch” he’s able to deliver pretty much anywhere.
So, with the first delivery dates for North and South confirmed, we enter this new partnership eager to see ERSA’s reach, profile and organisational skills bringing about the national delivery offer that our campaign needs. And watch this space, I’m hopeful of announcing our Midlands trainer soon!
A campaign intended to see every frontline employment support worker becoming an MHFAer, and every provider creating a stigma-free, undiscriminating work environment where clients are encouraged to discuss and develop their mental health.
Kevin Moore is the Chief Executive of Future Path and a Mental Health First Aid Trainer