Our new series ‘Meet the MHFA’, aims to help you get to know the dozens of trained Mental Health First Aiders we have within #TeamGateshead – serving to grow their profiles, create more friendly faces and provide you with more support networks when you’re in need.

Helping us to debut the series is Caitlin Barry, a Project Manager within the North East and North Cumbria Staff Tobacco Dependency Treatment Team, who completed her training back in March 2023 having heard positive feedback from others who’d completed the course.

Prior to attending training, Caitlin noted that “Working in a relatively new team across a regional footprint, I feel it’s particularly important to be able to identify and support people who may be struggling,” – and upon completing the course, expanded: “Mental health is so important. We all have mental health. Whether it’s ‘good’, ‘bad’ or somewhere in between, it’s important to recognise that it is part of us all.

“Often in everyday life we find ourselves in situations where we feel helpless in supporting someone who might be in a bad place with their mental health, but Mental Health First Aider training helps you to understand which situations you can help someone in, whilst also recognising when a situation might need to be escalated to a professional, the same way you would with physical first aid.

“Whilst the training can be utilised in and outside of work, being able to support my colleagues at work was my main focus when undertaking this training. Everyone is under so much pressure that they can often forget to look after themselves, but it’s so important to do so.”

The experience of Mental Health First Aider training:

On the training itself, Caitlin continued: “It was really informative – ALGEE provides a great framework to assess a situation and either manage or escalate as appropriate. Going through different situations in which you might be able to help, and understanding how to support someone (or escalate) was really helpful.

“I’d tell anyone considering taking the training to do it! I think everyone should have an awareness of mental health first aider training, as it’s applicable in every walk of life. You never know when you’ll be able to utilise it.

“Even if it’s not a ‘crisis situation’, you learn so much about communication and empathy that is transferrable to lots of other situations. It will also help to de-stigmatise mental health as being a bad thing that only affects some people too!”

With all that being said, Caitlin finishes by noting her favourite part of the training – a basic principle of any mental health support – that “we all need to put our own oxygen masks on first!”.

Register your interest in Mental Health First Aider training:

Throughout 2023 we will be continuing to offer regular Mental Health First Aider courses. To express your interest and be added to a waiting list of colleagues who are looking to complete the two-day training session, complete our registration form. To learn more about the role itself, visit our First Aiders page or download the role description.

Finding a Mental Health First Aider:

A full list of our Mental Health First Aiders can be found on our Find A Mental Health First Aider page, providing you with contact details for all qualified MHFAs who can act as a point of contact for any employee who is experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress.

As #MeetTheMHFA unfolds, we’ll be updating the page to link back to these items – providing you with the chance to get to know a First Aider more prior to making contact, as well as looking at how we reformat the page to more clearly identify which MHFAs are from which business unit.