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Why I spend my weekends learning about mental health

Principal Consultant Sarah tells us why her weekends are for studying…

One of the unusual things about OneFifty is that, aside from what we call a ‘universal skills minimum’, we’re pretty self-directed in our professional development. There isn’t one particular course somebody has to take to progress in their role, we don’t force people to take a day away from their desk to learn about time management skills (the irony) and mandatory training is generally done as and when it fits a client need. Instead, we’re guided by our OKRs, whereby our individual roles contribute to the success of the business, and this includes setting ourselves targets for our personal development and skills acquisition, with a view that these skills should help ladder up to the overall company objectives. 

As part of my development OKRs over the past few years I’ve taken on reporting duties to help get a really thorough understanding of our research processes, I’ve attended photography workshops and I’ve gone all in on PPC campaigns for 6 months to get to know digital acquisition inside and out. But in Spring 2021, I wanted to do something that was a little wider than skills development, whilst still contributing to OneFifty as a business. So, I decided to become a Mental Health First Aider, training online with Ben & Sarah from the Good Mental Health Company.

What is a mental health first aider?

A mental health first aider is the psychological equivalent of a physical health first aider – their key goal is the preservation of life when somebody might be experiencing a mental health issue. We’re there to listen non-judgmentally, signpost towards helpful support channels such as a GP, and generally be compassionate and understanding if somebody is experiencing a crisis.

I knew this was something I personally wanted to do having had my own experiences with depression and anxiety, which I’ve been really open about with the team here. As part of the leadership team within the business, I’m personally responsible for creating an environment in which people feel comfortable talking about their mental health. I know from my own experiences that the ability to speak honestly to a colleague about how you’re feeling is really important in overcoming workplace stigma, and can counteract negative attitudes towards mental health.

That’s why, over the course of 5 weeks in Q1, I spent my evenings and weekends poring over YouTube videos, text books, webinars and online lectures in a quest for knowledge about mental health. The course doesn’t just cover the basics of mental health in the workplace – it goes into the science behind why some people have a certain brain chemistry, and teaches you how to recognise the signs and symptoms of different mental health conditions. To get the qualification, you have to undertake an assessment, answering a variety of questions about different aspects of mental health, and going through a roleplay to help signpost somebody to the right support. Nerve-wracking but I’m pleased to say I passed with a near perfect score! (I’ll be mad about the 1 question I answered incorrectly for years to come…)

What’s next?

I’m really happy to say I’ve been able to put what I’ve learned over the last few months into practice in both my professional and personal lives, and I’ve definitely got the bug for learning – weekends are now dedicated to Yale University’s Introduction to Psychology online course! But the most exciting thing is that I’m helping to build a positive culture, not just within OneFifty, but in a world in which talking openly about mental health is more important than ever.

Thanks for reading, and if you’d like to know more about Mental Health First Aid, send me an email – I’d love to chat. 

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