IMSR EDI seminar on Mental Health and the Mental Health First Aider programme

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Written by Dr Jonathan W. Mueller 

IMSR seminars normally focus on stellar science connected to endocrinology and metabolism. IMSR EDI seminars are different. During the pandemic, we had seminars on Black-lives-matter and on Athena Swan and equality. A third seminar was on Hidden Disabilities and Chronic Diseases. Following this tradition, our most recent seminar was on Mental Health, which was also the first IMSR EDI seminar back on campus with a hybrid option.

Image depicts two copies of the Mental Health First Aid workbook.

We were very fortunate to have four prominent speakers lined up. Helen Matthews, from the MDS admin team; Cristina Escribano Gonzalez, former IMSR researcher and now in MDS Infrastructure and Facilities; Jon Mueller from IMSR, and Victoria Rybinski from Employee Equality, Inclusion and Wellbeing from central Human Resources. They all presented their perspective on a dedicated training programme, MHFA, the Mental Health First Aider programme.

Helen explained how the college started rolling out MHFA training. She also gave a perspective for the future, in which trained UoB staff could deliver MHFA training internally. Cris explained the difference between the Mental Health First Aider and the Mental Health Champion – the second one is more about promoting wellbeing and open conversations about mental health, it involves less intensive training. Jon highlighted the focus of MHFA training on life-threatening conditions, such as suicide, depression, anxiety, or psychosis; instead of discussing complex psychological disease entities. Vicki gave an overview of the wider picture of staff wellbeing at our university. She shared a perspective of MHFA in the future and also highlighted other opportunities, such as Mental Health training by POD, available at UoB.

Several speakers shared part of their personal journey, behind their support towards positive Mental Health. In the Q&A session and thereafter, Martin Hewison stated that the meeting was excellent and certainly very useful to everyone at a time when many IMSR staff feel under pressure. The event continued over fruit, cake, tea, and coffee; ideally suited to begin one’s very own discussion about one’s Mental Health. 

There certainly are things to be discussed and picked up again, in the near future. How could we be prioritising staff social interactions? How can staff express concerns about a colleague in a helpful way? And how will all this influence our next EDI seminars and activities. We are still at the beginning of this journey.