Becoming a Mental Health First Aid Instructor with the very respected MHFA England, my aim is to share education and support around mental health in the workplaces of both our clients and businesses we don’t yet know. But businesses who care about their employees, their performance and their bottom line.
This article is not about the journey of my learning, more like a tale of transforming. Transforming a way of thinking, seeing and being.
In my training, I expected to learn, to be engaged and to build upon expertise in psychology and experience in human resources. What I didn’t expect was to, in just only 5 days conclude that I, who consider myself fair, open minded and most definitely not discriminatory, have been looking at the issue of mental health with – what can only be described as – tinted glasses.
You see, it’s not the many stats of 1 in 4 or 90% (at any one time or over their life experiencing mental health illness) that have defined my journey. Yes, there are a lot of shocking and under reported figures around mental health illness in society and the workplace, but that we can work to change. It isn’t even understanding the wide ranging types of conditions; anxiety, depression, psychosis and those illnesses that include or are part of psychosis, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and actions, eating disorders or the many varieties of bi-polar. Nor is it learning how to spot, support and signpost – although I will be forever grateful for the education. No, what is making me shift my thinking and day to day actions – and words – is the impact that one simple act can make.
This act, we will call it the ‘teacup’, gives people the opportunity to know what they are feeling is ‘ok’, not ‘stupid’ and that they are worthwhile hearing. It allows a window of opportunity for them to ask for help, directly or indirectly. It offers hope to those who may have struggled with their thoughts and feelings, constraints and battles. It provides the chance to find support and meet others who may be scared of their own thoughts, feelings and actions. The teacup? Asking if someone is OK, being quiet…and listening. Not just sitting and hearing, but listening. Listening like you may never hear words again, and like that person is the only thing that in that moment matters to you. Not listening to respond. Listening to hear.
This ‘teacup’ skill I practised after day 2 of my training journey. You may think I would listen every day, that’s HR and being a business owner with a team, right? Sure, I listen…but before now I may listen to respond, to move on, to progress in our busy, busy lives. Just recently I have started to stop cutting people off (OK, I am still practising), to leave a few seconds of a pause at the end of their finishing speaking and, more importantly, I’ve started to ask ‘are you ok?’. You know, when the frown doesn’t match the person or the situation. Or the quiet doesn’t make sense.
And what have I found? increasingly day by the day, people I know and talk to on a daily or weekly basis are talking. Talking about things that they are up at night thinking about. Talking about help that they are receiving and beginning to open up about those things that may otherwise not reach a conversation for fear of the look of disapproval. You see, when people think that you will listen and listen for the right reasons – because you care – they will talk. And you will be able to help.
So why am I writing this? I guess for just that one thing. If you don’t get trained either formally or through self-teach on mental health illnesses, and you work with, for or managing people. Just do one thing. Take a breath. Step back. Have a chat and listen. You never know what you may hear, and what you may be able to do.
Want to know more? Then just message me. Yes, I will listen!
Yours, a progressive listener.

Katie Bancroft