Our ‘Meet the MHFA’ series, 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.

The latest colleague to discuss their experience of Mental Health First Aider training is Meraud Bird, Oncology Data Manager in the Research and Development team and who completed the training course in March 2023.

A proactive approach

Prior to being offered a place on a course, Meraud told us: “Working in research, we can be exposed to a variety of distressing circumstances that can affect both staff and patients. I personally work within cancer studies and in palliative care. Both situations can have a serious impact on the mental health of patients and the staff members who work with them and I feel that having training in being able to spot distress and help with it would be invaluable.”

And, noting the potential to use new skills learnt outside of the workplace, Meraud continued: “I also feel that this training can be transferrable outside of work as I know many people, both friends and family, who either have or know others who have mental health issues.”

A tough subject:

Starting off, Meraud offers a glowing review of the training explaining: “I found the training so informative and the group discussions really helped us all to learn about people experiences with mental health. The group was so supportive and being in a room with like minded people all wanting to support others was a great experience.”

However, the reality of the subject at hand did also bring with it some challenges, as Meraud continues: “Some of the topics covered were tough and nothing was sugar coated. I think I did actually cry a bit at one point. But actually that’s what the course needed to be in order to show important mental health is and that it should be taken seriously.

“Hearing real stories from real people – btoh from the learning materials and from talking as a group – rather than just reading out of a textbook – just hammered home how important this training is and that it could have a real difference in someone’s life.

“I also liked that it focused a lot on your own mental health and how looking after yourself first is the best way to be in the right mind frame to help others – something I was not that great at, but now I actively make the time to check in on myself.”

Looking after yourself and others

Expanding on that note, Meraud continues: “I would absolutely recommend this course to everyone. The skills that I learnt from it are invaluable – both for applying to your own mental health and also for recognising if others are struggling or just need some extra support. They can be applied in so many different scenarios and are so versatile. You can apply them to many aspects of life not just mental health.

“It’s not for the faint hearted but if you’re serious about wanting to help yourself and others, or just want to raise awareness and break the stigma about mental health, this course will be a fantastic experience.

“Mental health is something I’ve always been highly aware of due to either my own experiences, those of my friends and family or colleagues at work. I wanted to have some proper training in ways I can help to help support those around me but also to be able to recognise if my own mental health needs attention and how I can get support. This course has helped me do that.

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. Alternatively, 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.