SCPHA’s Mental Health First Aiders support colleagues experiencing loneliness

This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week by the Mental Health Foundation, who this year are raising awareness of loneliness and how it affects people in different ways.

Feeling lonely from time to time is normal, but as Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority’s Mental Health First Aiders will tell you, it can significantly impact our wellbeing when it lasts.

Business Manager Bradley Borley and Authorised Officer Hannah Gilson began their training to become Mental Health First Aiders in April 2019. They learnt about a range of topics over the next few months from bereavement to depression, including how to identify and support people experiencing poor mental health.

Hannah said: “It’s important we can detect when someone isn’t feeling themselves and be good listeners when they decide to open up.”

Bradley added: “When someone says ‘I’m fine’ you can’t always take that at face value, as talking about mental health is unfortunately still a taboo for many people.”

During their training, the pair learnt a great deal about how to support people feeling lonely and have since been able to apply techniques to help their colleagues.

Hannah said: “We need to make sure we have the latest resources to hand, including mental health hotlines and website links, so our colleagues can get the expert advice they need.

“We’re very much a bridge to professional support for those struggling with their mental health and a way of showing it’s OK to talk about your state of mind.”

Bradley recalls a time he supported a friend who had been furloughed from his company and confided in him about feeling isolated.

Bradley said: “He’s one of the most outgoing and talkative people I know, which goes to show you never truly know what someone’s feeling.

“He had lost all motivation, so we created a system where he would call me every morning to talk about at least one thing he has made progress on. After a few months, he ended up refitting his entire bathroom and regaining his drive.”

Hannah and Bradley always have their doors open to discuss mental health and give advice to colleagues struggling with loneliness. Bradley concluded: “I encourage everyone to speak more freely about mental health.”

For more information about Mental Health Awareness Week 2022, visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk/get-involved

Resources for support with your wellbeing can be found at www.mhm.org.uk/pages/faqs/category/helpful-resources