Podcast - Mental Health Awareness Week First Aiders

This podcast is part of a series in support of Mental Health Awareness week.

In this podcast, we are joined by Danny Kearney, from PROSAFE Solutions, a safety consulting company that delivered mental health first aider training to a number of us. Danny is focused on raising awareness around mental health and mental health first aiders. Thank you for joining us, Danny! 

Table of Contents


James Lewis: Good afternoon everybody, and welcome to the latest in the Coming Out Stronger and Mental Health Awareness week suite of podcasts. And today, a really interesting guest speaker. We are lucky enough to have Danny Kearney with us this afternoon. Danny was an Armed Forces business owner who has slipped into the mental health awareness field and he came into MIGSO-PCUBED in the London office a few months ago and delivered some mental health first aider training to a number of us.

A fantastic day and we’re really pleased to have him with us. Interviewing Danny will be Julia Pickup, who is the HR manager for MIGSO-PCUBED in the UK. A very warm welcome to you both Danny and Julia.

Danny Kearney: Thanks very much.

Julia Pickup: Hi, thank you.

James Lewis: So, without further ado, I’m going to hand over to Julia and ask her to post some questions to Danny.

Julia Pickup: Yes, thank you. Thanks James. And hi, Danny.

Danny Kearney: Hello, thank you for having me.

Julia Pickup: Thank you for taking the time to join us. Like James just mentioned, we are focusing our podcast this week on the topic of mental health and the awareness of this topic. It’s very much at the top of our agenda here at MIGSO-PCUBED, and we have multiple mental health first aiders across the business. Most of them I’ve actually been trained by you and your company, Prosafe Consulting, and obviously certified by MHFA England. So you’re a bit of an expert on the subject.

What is Mental Health First Aid? [01:35]

Julia Pickup: Could you tell us a bit about mental health first aid,
starting with, what is it actually?

Danny Kearney: Yeah, no problem. Thanks for the intros. So mental health first aid, if you liken it to physical first aid, then that gives us a bit of a head start. Most of us are familiar, I would suggest all of us probably, with physical first aid and the importance of it.

The reactive nature of it in the event that somebody hurts themselves, whether that’s a minor or a major injury.  Mental health first aid is doing the same thing in so much as we’re not necessarily looking at a splinter, a broken leg or a cardiac arrest, but we might also be trying to support somebody that has a pre-existing medical, mental health condition that may be worsening. Or, an emerging mental health condition, following, you know, witnessing something distressing.

Look at the situation that we’re in at the moment where people are, are really cast out of their normal life and therefore maybe experiencing emotions that they’ve not normally experienced.

So, the reality of it is that mental health first aid is about preserving life when somebody might be at risk to themselves, much the same as it would be in physical first aid. Preventing anything from getting worse as best we can.  Any mental health first aider is, I don’t say only lightly, but we are professionals.

We try and promote recovery of what those individuals are going through, through a range of different tools that we can use. As you guys have experienced as we carried out the course. And then really the fundamental thing is empathy and provide comfort and support much the same as you would with anybody that’s had a physical injury.


Why is Mental Health Important Today? [03:14]

Julia Pickup: So why would you say that mental health first aid is, is particularly important today?

Danny Kearney: Well, firstly, mental health issues are common. Therefore, we’re going to experience them personally within our work networks or within our personal lives, family, friends, and whatever. The more we know about it, the better we do reducing the stigma and discrimination that surrounds some mental health conditions.  It’s getting better, but they still exist.

The stigma associated with it is damaging and it’s preventative. It stops people from wanting to seek help because of some of the language that’s used around mental health and how that can be used to discriminate or promote stigmatized views.

Quite often the same could be said for physical, and I’m linking it back to physical cause for me, they’re all combined. You know, we keep healthy physically, we keep healthy mentally, they go hand in hand.

But a lot of people aren’t very well informed about mental health conditions. Therefore, they build up through no fault of their own, but they build up an understanding which may come from their view on the world, how they see the world, how they perceive the world, their frame of references as we call it.  And with that, that can then lead to unhealthy or an unhelpful view on it. 

And that then leads to potentially worsening scenarios, worsening conditions, worsening fears around going to get help and the stigma that’s associated with it. So, I think they’re probably the key points that I would highlight for why mental health first aid is really important.

What do Mental Health First Aiders Do? [04:46]

Julia Pickup: And what is the role of the mental health first aider? Who can become a mental health first aider?

Danny Kearney: Anybody really can become a mental health first aider. It makes sense that you have a level of empathy. Typically find that quite useful in physical first aid and mental health first aid.

So I think people that – and I say this again, having spoken to people with this attitude or this outlook that have partaken in a course and completely changed their view of it – but typically people that don’t believe in mental health or believe that it’s just a case of, “Suck it up, buttercup,” and get on with it, may find it harder to understand and appreciate the finer points of where we’re trying to get to. But that doesn’t say that it’s impossible.

There is an age limit of 18 but you can be 16. For somebody with a consent from another guardian or parent. But really anybody can do it and you don’t have to have any prior experience. The training that’s provided certainly by MHFA England is fantastic and it really guides you through it.

But it doesn’t end there. There’s definitely an importance in looking around and understanding more around the subject. I find the best mental health first aiders are those that really want to ask how people are but maybe don’t know the way to do it or a suitable way to approach it.

And some of the subjects that you might be talking about, some serious subjects, we can give them the tools to do that.

When Should You Seek Out a Mental Health First Aider? [06:12]

Julia Pickup: So, when should you seek out a mental health first aider?

Danny Kearney: To try and make this as open to everybody – at any point that you feel there’s something that you can’t maybe understand, appreciate, or deal with yourself – the same way that you may do at work with a work problem, then I think that’s a good time to talk to somebody anyway. Mental health first aider or not.

Now knowing that we’ve got mental health first aiders within your business, within the community – I think adds a level of comfort. Now, mental health first aiders are not clinicians. They’re not able to diagnose, they’re not medical practitioners, but they are people with a level of understanding.

So if you feel that you have some concerns or some feelings around emotions that you might be experiencing – let’s pick a subject that we care about a lot maybe depression – you might not know it’s that you might just be feeling sad for a prolonged period of time and you might have lost enjoyment or drive or concentration or the ability to focus on stuff that you didn’t normally have.

And this is a perfect example of the time we’re in at the minute where people might be experiencing that. Why not reach out to somebody like an MHFA first aider or an MHFA champion, or a friend. And just say, this doesn’t feel right. What do you think? And that person can then help guide you towards useful resources.

They’ve got tools and a bit of extra information that might be able to support you in finding the help that you need or understanding the feelings that you’re having.

How to Be a Mental Health First Aider [07:47]

Julia Pickup: Yeah. So, is that what you should expect from that first meeting?

Danny Kearney: Yeah, definitely. As a mental health first aider, like I said, we’re not here to say, Oh, this looks just like depression, I suggest you go and do this amount of exercise, you know? But we have an understanding of various different mental health conditions and what some of the things you might expect those to look like.

So, with that in mind, that first conversation is probably just going to be the person you’re talking to, talking and you listening. One of the tools that we really try and focus on with a mental health first aid, I think it’s an important tool for life, is to spend more time listening than talking.

Unless of course you’re a public speaker, because that probably wouldn’t work out in your favor. But we know the best bit of advice I was given before joining the army by my dad was that you’ve got two ears and one mouth for a reason. So, try and listen more than you talk. I think that is really important.

So that first conversation with your mental health first aid or anybody really should definitely look like you being able to get out of your mind off of your chest, what it is that you’re experiencing, because that gives the mental health first aider a chance to try and appreciate what it is that is going on.

There may be some information that they would give to you. I wouldn’t expect mental health first aiders is to give advice, but certainly information. And that information might suggest that you could talk to a professional if they felt that that was a suitable route forward with the person that you’re talking to of course, with their consent, we want it to be person centered.

We want the person that you’re talking to to be involved in this as much as anything and not to have their power taken away from them. I suggest that first conversation would look like, or a lot of listening, some understanding, and there may be some information to support what next steps that person might be able to take or what support that MHFA first aider might be able to offer.

Julia Pickup: Yeah, thank you, Danny. Such an important topic and I think anything to contribute to make people understand that it’s okay to not feel okay.

Danny Kearney: It really is an important topic, and I’ve touched on this a few times this week. There’s a lot of conversations that talk about mental health awareness and mental health awareness week, for example.

Now being aware of your own mental health and other people’s mental health is fantastic. But where we need to get to – the point where we need to get to is where with that awareness, we’re able to create action.

We’re able to create change because being aware of something versus being aware of it and then making something happen – is what the important bit is. It’s the tiniest little change in somebody that we’d like to spot. But then we need to action that or be in a position to support that person, to action it to prevent the condition, the feeling, the emotion from worsening without support where support is needed.

But this week is fantastic. It talks about kindness. It was originally going to talk about sleep and all the things that we think we know about, but we tend to take for granted. So hopefully, along with your podcasts and everything else, people are going to get some real value from it.

Julia Pickup: Agree, thank you.

Danny Kearney: No problem.

James Lewis: Danny and Julia, thank you so much for that. Really important and insightful comments from from Danny and Julia there. I’m going to wrap this up now, but just one last thing. If you are sitting here listening to this and it struck a chord and you feel that you would like to reach out to a mental health first aider – if you’re an MIGSO-PCUBED employee, then look at the Navigator.  contact your local HR department.

If you’re in the UK, that would be Julia.pickup@pcubed.com. But for now, thank you very much everybody. Thank you again to Danny and Julia and to Charles Willman, indefatigable sound engineer and editor.

We’ll be talking to Olympic medalist, Crista Cullen later on in the week as a final part of our mental health awareness podcasts suite. But for now, stay safe and well, and thank you very much. Everybody.

Julia Pickup: Thank you.

Danny Kearney: Thank you.

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