Meet Charlie - a 42-year old gay male who is currently half way through his counselling training. As an individual who has completed both the MHFA Adult training and the Suicide First Aider Training, we caught up with him to discuss the differences between the courses, how they compliment each other, and what additional benefits and teachings the course provide where counselling training currently does not.
Charlie grew up in Kent, and then relocated to London to attend university. He expressed that his life journey has been quite traumatic at times, having lived experience of mental ill health, but has always tried to be helpful and hopeful. He's always been quite people-orientated; working in restaurants, bars, security and marketing, as well as providing peer support services, fundraising events and, most importantly, being a carer for his Mum.
It's funny. I stopped and took stock of my life when I was caring for my Mum; I was coming up for the big 40, and all of my life experiences thus far, personal and professional, were always veering towards supporting and empowering others. This was the reason I decided to study counselling.
Charlie also expressed that he believes that 'like most things, it's a matter of right time, right place' and that was, equally, the reasons as to why he decided to train as a Mental Health First Aider, and Suicide First Aider.
Charlie was in the middle of completing his counselling studies when the COVID-19 Pandemic struck. Due to his role as a carer, he took the decision to minimise the risk of transmission, and postponed his training for a year.
I wanted to keep my skills and knowledge up to date by undertaking CPD courses and it was then that I came across Mental Health First Aid. Mental Health had been discussed in my counselling course already, but I wanted to learn more and find a better approach to helping and supporting people.
When asking Charlie about how he found Connect Mental Health, he responded:
I seen many of these sorts of courses on Facebook; but CMH's course caught my attention because the vision of the company was in line with what I was looking for, providing the opportunities for safer and broader conversations around mental health, whilst being affordable and easily accessible to all. Their values also resonated a lot with my core-beliefs of commitment to help and support others with their mental health awareness, being open minded/non-judgemental. We all need to learn and grow with the right encouragement.
Charlie undertook the MHFA England Adult Course across 4 sessions which were spread out across 2 weekends, and completed the Suicide First Aider course across 2 evening sessions. Charlie was happy to provide some feedback regarding his experiences on the following courses:
MHFA England Adult Course
Diverse group of delegates, from all occupations, with a shared interest in mental health. This allowed each delegate to grasp a deeper understanding of mental health and how it can impact everyone's lives personally and professionally.
It raised our awareness of mental health issues, which helped reduce the stigma around mental health, and increased our confidence when discussing the subject***
The course was delivered in a relaxed, but informative, way and it was very engaging. With a mixture of discussions, videos, breakout rooms, role plays, pre-learning activities, and reading, it made it easier to learn - primarily because of the approachable style of our trainers.
*** Reporting from the course in which Charlie attended shows a 80% increase in confidence after attending the course. For full reporting, please see here
Suicide First Aider Course
A really nice addition to the MHFA course as it gave further insight into suicide prevention, the skills we need to approach people who are thinking about suicide, and how to create a suicide safety plan.
Seeing all the statistics in the UK was a wake-up call and realising the full impact on society.
The course was very engaging, with numerous opportunities for role play.
Having attended both courses, Charlie shared with us how they have both impact him, personally, and his role within the community:
I've always been a person who people talk to and, due to my own experiences, I have peer supported many through difficult times. It's been great to get a more in-depth knowledge and understand the best way to approach these topics. We all want to be helpful but sometimes what we view as helpful isn't always as helpful as we think.
It's reinforced how some conversations need to be had more. As a gay man, the statistics for LGBTQI+ communities for mental health and suicide prevalence were quite shocking! It makes me more passionate and proactive most of the time; all it takes is an honest conversation to make a huge difference.
When analysing his current training as a counsellor, Charlie expressed that all of the courses compliment each other really well, but are also VERY different, as he has gained a deeper understanding of mental health conditions and their impact for a more holistic perspective. He added:
One major difference from my counselling training to MHFA/SFA is that you can help/support anyone anywhere and is a lot more proactive, whilst counselling training is a lot more focused on a contracted situation, and people coming to us for support.
We want to thank Charlie for taking the time to chat with us, and learning more about his experiences. His final parting words of the interview were to summarise that everyone can benefit from doing the MHFA and SFA courses as we ALL need to be able to have these conversations. It does help when you've undertaken proper training, as you'll know how to approach it in the right way, and support in a safe manner (for us, as well as the individual).