In line with the 2016 theme for mental health day celebrations; “Dignity in Mental Health; Psychological and Mental Health First Aid,” we present an article that divulges what mental health first aid is. This article mostly adopted from the UK Mental Health First Aid Training Course will introduce readers to relevant issues such as identifying mental disorders especially at its onset. It will also understand and help a person who may be developing a mental health issue help readers recognize the signs and symptoms associated with common mental health problems, how to provide help on a first aid basis and seek the right support for persons who need it.

Mental Health First Aid
How to identify, understand and help a person who suddenly suffers or is experiencing a mental health condition.
Recognizing crucial warning signs of Mental Ill Health.

Triggers and Signs of Mental Health
Spotting signs of mental ill health can be an arduous task for non-clinical people. Changes in our daily activities including our personal life may at some point tend prove stressful beyond levels we can cope with and this may trigger mental ill health.

Here are some of the common triggers which might impact on someone’s mental health and signs that suggest they may need support.

Personal life changes


Relationship breakdown

Having children

Health scares or physical illness

Changes at Work

Starting a new job

Coping with an increased workload or a promotion

Poor relationships with colleagues or managers

Redundancy, or fear of redundancy


Signs to Post

Recognizing a mental health issue is the first step in getting the support needed to recover. One of the first signs of mental ill health may be changes in the person’s behavior.


Frequent headaches or stomach upsets

Difficulty sleeping or constant tiredness

Lack of care over appearance

Suffering from frequent minor illnesses

Being run down

Sudden weight loss or gain

Emotional and Behavioral

Irritability, aggression or tearfulness

Being withdrawn, not participating in conversations or social activities

Increased arguments or conflict with others

Increased consumption of caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes or sedatives

Indecision, inability to concentrate

Erratic or socially unacceptable behaviour

Being louder or more exuberant than usual

Loss of confidence

Difficulty remembering things

Loss of humour

At Work

Increased errors, missing deadlines or forgetting tasks

Taking on too much work and volunteering for every new project

An employee who is normally punctual arriving late

Working too many hours: first in, last out,

Sending emails out of hours or while on leave

Increased sickness absence

Being fixated with fair treatment and quick to use grievance procedures

Look out for these signs that an employee may need more support in the workplace

Commencing the Mental Health First Aid Process

This is designed to equip people with the skills and confidence to identify the signs and symptoms of common mental health conditions and in effect, leading persons who need help to the appropriate place where they can access care and support. Making time to talk is the first step in the process. One does not have to be an expert to talk to someone who needs mental health support, but the issue of discrimination and stigmatization sometimes makes uncomfortable to begin the conversation. Here, a bit of help may be needed.

Begin by asking the person out for tea or a drink. It will be more accommodating to meet out of the office or place of work to a more relaxed place or a serene atmosphere where you will be away from the very things that stress you up. Start off by talking about yourselves what you like and dislike, how you both do some things in common, and then as you both talk freely, wade into questions such as how are you feeling at the moment? How long have you felt like this – is it an ongoing issue? Who do you feel you can go to for support? Is there anything we can do to help?

Effective listening

Effective listening is when you don’t interrupt. Show maximum concentration by listening to their words, tone of voice and body language — these give clues to how the person is  feeling

Place yourself in the other person’s shoes and demonstrate to them that you hear and understand what they are saying and feeling

Do not begin by criticizing the person’s feelings, understandings and beliefs particularly when they are different from yours. Respect the person’s feelings.

Be sincere, show your commitment and willingness to understand what the person is feeling by what you say and do.

What next?

Do not break the link. Keep up the conversation. Visit occasionally to find out how they are doing. Let them know you are always available, and that they can genuinely call on you at any time. Keeping in touch with sick friends and employees is a good way of watching out for triggers.

Encourage sick persons to visit their healthcare personnel, who may refer them to see a psychologist or a mental health worker when necessary.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Mental Health First Aid may be delivered in a range of courses including Adult Mental Health First Aid, Youth Mental Health First Aid and Armed Forces Mental Health First Aid. Training may also be delivered to small, medium and large organizations, depending on what their Mental Health needs are. Join our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for the best in Preventive Mental Health Care to your employees and their dependents.

Excerpts adopted from the UK Mental Health First Aid Training Course.