Is a little knowledge a dangerous thing when it comes to mental health?
Do you need to be an expert to have a conversation with someone struggling with their mental health? Some say that you do. Some advocate not using peer to peer support systems because ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’. Should we not all understand mental health better, improve our listening skills and make a priority to understand ourselves better to ensure we don’t fall prey to a common mental health issue such as anxiety? Is the GP always the best option (the usual advice) when we are struggling? Are some psychologists right that ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing?’ Heather Beach, Founder of the Healthy Work Company, explains more…
The concept of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) has become integral to any wellbeing strategy in the UK – and sometimes, it has to be said, the only strategy. MHFA England can be said to have successfully raised the status of the topic of mental health in workplaces and created a peer to peer solution which any business can employ at relatively low cost. So successful has this been, that there is a move to create legislation which says that it should be mandated in every workplace and there are a small but growing range of options in terms of alternative qualifications and different approaches emerging for example March on Stress’s STRAW.
Peer to peer support is sometimes criticised by organisational psychologists as creating over eager volunteers without expertise, but if trained correctly and the right individuals selected, their job is non-judgemental listening and signposting further support. Does one need a degree in psychology to do this? The body of knowledge imparted through the training has created an evidence base that those who undertake it, are better informed and case studies which show cultural improvements. However, there are those who think that this should not be a ‘role’ at all. That training in having better conversations should be available to everybody and that appointing official first aiders is counterproductive. We will be debating this in the Keynote Theatre at Safety & Health Expo on 20 June.
We will also be debating whether it should be mandated. In the absence of a full stress risk assessment and workplace wellbeing strategy, is it better to do this training than nothing? Is it better to do this training AND train managers and others in the organisation in the specific aspects which are relevant to their roles and their lives? Is it appropriate for every organisation? If you do employ it as part of your strategy, should you ensure you manage risks appropriately – for example those highlighted in the recent IOSH report. How do you manage those risks?
We have brought together an expert panel to debate this – each with their own very particular viewpoint. We think that for health and safety professionals who are aiming to take this new area under their wing, it is paramount that they are informed of both the opportunities and risks of this approach as well as how to manage those.
The panel, moderated by Heather, is made up of:
Dr Carolyn Yeoman – Organisational Psychologist;
Joscelyne Shaw – Director of Strategy, Mates in Mind;
Stacy Thomson – CEO, The Performance Club;
Fionnula Bonnar – COO, MHFA England.
The panel debate, ‘Is a little knowledge a dangerous thing when it comes to Mental Health?’ will take place on at 12:45 on Wednesday 20 June in the Keynote Theatre at Safety & Health Expo. Find the Healthy Work Company on Stand HW3840.
To secure your free ticket, click here.
Heather Beach is Founder of the Healthy Work Company – a workplace wellbeing training and consultancy organisation which offers support for your wellbeing strategy as well as training in Mental Health First Aid. We also offer training for managers and directors (highlighting their specific responsibilities) and all employees. The Healthy Work Company can support your implementation plans and invites you to review the checklist if you are considering implementing a peer to peer support system such as MHFA.
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