Is there someone around you whose mental health is suffering? And no experts or helpers are currently available? You can provide valuable support in this situation.
Mental health first aid comes in five stages. To help you here, think of the abbreviation ROGER.
The most important thing is just the fact that you react. Choose the right time and way to approach the person. If possible, choose a place to talk to the person where you both feel comfortable. Treat everything you hear as confidential.
This second step involves gaining an understanding of the affected person’s situation. People in mentally stressful situations want to be listened to with empathy before looking for solutions. Do exactly that. Be aware of your body language and avoid making judgemental comments – neither about the person nor their situation. This will make it easier for the person to talk openly about any problems.
Engage with the person. Give them hope that their situation will improve. And offer your support if the person is currently overwhelmed with certain tasks.
Tell the person you’re talking to about the professional help they can get. It could be that they don’t know what options are available:
If the person does not want to take up professional help, ask them why. And encourage the person to do something to improve their situation.
Encourage the person to ask other people for help, such as family members, friends or people they know. Self-help strategies are also helpful. These can be learnt from reading literature, for example.
This sounds easy in theory but people sometimes just lack the confidence to do it themselves in an emergency: a mental health first aid course teaches you how to recognise different mental illnesses. You then practise what you have learned in role plays, among other things. By learning about mental health, you are empowering yourself, if nothing else.
The Swiss Red Cross (SRC) offers various “ensa first aid courses for mental health” that focus on adults, adolescents or specifically on suicidal thoughts. The word ensa comes from one of the more than three hundred languages of the Australian aborigines and means “answer”.
As a partner of the Swiss Red Cross (SRC), Helsana is committed to ensuring that as many people as possible can perform first aid at any time. This includes when somebody needs first aid due to mental health problems. For customers who have COMPLETA supplementary outpatient insurance, Helsana covers 75% or a maximum of CHF 200 per calendar year of the cost of selected courses run by the SRC.
Anyone who has given first aid sometimes needs support themselves to deal with what they have experienced. So talk to someone about this, if it makes you feel better. Be careful, however, not to disclose names or other details that could lead to the person’s identity being revealed. Relaxation exercises, sports or an excursion somewhere can also help you to feel good again.
The ensa instructor provided the editorial team with advice and input for this article. Tom Bögli (graduate in Social Work from a university of applied sciences, systemic solution-oriented consultant Systemis) runs first-aid courses on mental health at the Swiss Red Cross in Bern.