Kia ora koutou Mental Health First Aiders across the country.
In the wake of the events on the 15th March, our thoughts are with our О̄tautahi friends.
Six weeks on, it’s important to acknowledge that as Mental Health First Aiders wherever you are, you may be feeling the responsibility of supporting those around ongoingly in response to this event.
First and foremost, we want to encourage you to pay attention to your own needs first. Whether you are directly or indirectly affected, it’s okay to take the time to look after yourself, to feel however you are feeling, and to reach out for the support you need.
If you are feeling able to offer support to others, we write to encourage you.
We know that a supportive conversation and the opportunity to be seen and heard in our grief can make such a difference to our ability to cope. We want to encourage you to know that you can help. You can notice anyone around you who is struggling, and you can help anyone in your life who is in distress to get to the support they need.
Use your steps of ALGEE
You have everything you need! If in doubt, review your ALGEE outline on page 16-17 in your MHFA manual or check out this quick reminder of the ALGEE framework.
A – Approach, Assess and Assist with any crisis
L – Listen non-judgmentally
G – Give support and information
E – Encourage appropriate professional help
E – Encourage other supports
Remember that it’s normal to feel a bit nervous or afraid of where a conversation might lead. Can you notice that fear and reach out anyway? Can you remind yourself that listening is everything, that you don’t need to have answers or the perfect words – you only need to offer openness, connection, a supportive listening ear, and encouragement to get further support. You have got the tools!
We encourage you to pay special attention to the ‘G’ and to give support by validating individual experiences. Whether or not someone is directly impacted, their grief is relevant. You can listen for feelings. Ask people open questions about how they are feeling. Validate them out loud: ‘It is ok that you are feeling this way.’ Just as we do in any MHFA conversation, we can let people know that they are not alone in how they are feeling, and we can encourage a sense of hope by conveying our confidence that it will not feel this hard forever.
Remember to leave the door open for people to come back when they need another conversation or to work out the next step in how they can look after themselves. Most importantly, we want to encourage you to do it your way. A less than perfect conversation is better than leaving someone in their distress.
Supporting ourselves and each other:
It’s a really important time to look after yourself and your fellow Mental Health First Aiders. Who can you go to for support today? Your feelings are important too. Remember that it is okay to both give and receive support. Let’s model to everyone around us that it is okay to not be okay, and that asking for help is brilliant. It is okay to tag out! Connecting someone to another Mental Health First Aider who is more able to be supportive right now counts as really good MHFA!
You did not do this training alone. Please reach out to your cohort. If you have an existing support network in your work environment, go to those.
If you don’t have a fellow MHFAer to contact, get in touch with us and we will match you up with someone else. Let’s make sure that no one feels alone. You can check out this guide to debriefing to reinforce what you already know about sensitive follow up conversations being a MHFAer’s best friend!