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Mental Health First Aid

Knowing what to say to someone you’re worried about or is struggling with their mental health is incredibly important. And could make all the difference.

Sometimes it's hard to spot the warning signs however, there might be clues in someone's behaviour.

1. Behaviour

Has their behaviour changed or is their mood very different?

Are they struggling to sleep or are they sleeping more?

Are they struggling with daily tasks? Has their performance at work changed?

Are they becoming withdrawn, or not enjoying things they used to, have you noticed that they are abusing substances or alcohol, or even signs of harm?

2. Start the conversation

Pick a suitable time and environment and ask them: are you ok?

How are you? How are you feeling?

You could let them know you’ve noticed they don’t seem themselves and you’re wondering if there’s anything you can do to help and that you’re there if they want to talk.

3. Listen

Let them speak and give them plenty of time to talk - listen to them and acknowledge what they are saying.

4. Understand

Try to empathise with them and their feelings.

Don’t be judgemental. What may not be a big deal to you, could be really important to someone else.

Don’t tell them off or berate them for how they are feeling.

Acknowledge that they are struggling with their situation, and empathise without using your own experience.

5. Offer to help

Give them a helping hand depending on what they ask and what they need and what you are comfortable with.

For example, signpost them to sources of further help and support.

Ask them to make an appointment to see someone or make it for them.

Ask if they need help speaking to other people such as their family or employer.

Highlight the importance of talking if you are struggling to cope.

Offer to help out with practical things which might take some pressure off or offer to have another chat with them to see how they are getting on.

If you are seriously worried that someone is at risk to themselves or someone else then speak to the emergency services straight away.

Mental health helplines

Seeing someone experiencing a mental health crisis can be really scary, but knowing what to do in a mental health emergency is really important and could save someone's life.

1) Remain calm.

2) If it is safe to approach, do so. If not, you may have to call the emergency services straight away.

3) Calmly tell the person your name, that you are there to help, and ask them if they’re happy to tell you theirs.

4) Ask for help from anyone around if possible.

5) If there are signs of physical injury, or the person is unresponsive, or looks unwell, then consider starting the process for physical first aid - call out for help, call 999, start basic life support (if qualified and necessary), and stay with them until help arrives.

6) Otherwise, try to engage them in conversation. It doesn’t really matter what you chat about. You can also ask, are you OK?

Do you need help?

What can I do to help you?

Can I call someone for you?

Have you ever felt this way before?

What helped?

7) If possible, get them to a safe space away from potential danger or harm. They may be more likely to move away with you if you are able to establish a line of dialogue. This can be about any general stuff you’re happy to talk about.

8) Either take them to a health facility (e.g. A&E) if appropriate, or call the emergency services and stay with them until help arrives.

9) Give the emergency services any information that you manage to obtain.

10) Unless the person is in imminent physical danger to themselves or someone else, be very careful about physical contact or restraint - some people may feel worse if you make contact.

Suicide prevention helplines

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