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Paul’s Story: Mental Health First Aid Courses

Mental Health First Aid Courses

In conjunction with Mental Health First Aid England, Racing Welfare run national mental health first aid courses allowing racing staff to take part in either a half-day training course or a more in-depth two-day course on mental health awareness. They are designed to give an understanding of what mental health is and the confidence to support someone in distress who may be experiencing a mental health issue.

Paul’s Story of becoming a Mental Health First Aider

The skills it has taught me and the empathetic thinking have been more useful than ever during the pandemic.

Paul Swain, who works for the Racecourse Association, tells us how becoming a mental health first aider has helped him support people at work:



I undertook the MHFA training last year and it has been invaluable, even before the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, the skills it has taught me and the empathetic thinking have been more useful than ever. The main thing I wanted to get across to anyone, be it work or personal, is that it’s important to keep talking.

COVID-19 and mental health at work

Many of my friends and colleagues have been separate from loved ones and some are living alone. I fall into this category too having been kept apart from my partner due to them falling into the vulnerable category and needing to self-isolate. With many colleagues being furloughed, the first thing was to establish a twice-weekly video call with our office. This involved everyone and wasn’t really even about work; we do quizzes, discuss pets, weekend plans etc. to keep people motivated and engaged.

People dip in and out of it and those who don’t participate I follow up with a short text or WhatsApp just to ask how they’re doing. Sometimes, they’ll leave it at a text reply which is fine, other times they want to chat one-on-one which is also fine. I’ve spent a good few hours just talking to people.

We can't ask ourselves for support but we can reserve time to keep to ourselves and undertake activities that we know work for us.

WhatsApp groups with friends are fantastic and you can keep in touch so readily. Of course it’s not the same as being in a room or at the pub, but it’s the next best thing and we all have compromises to make. Online gaming, too, is a great outlet and brings people together with a competitive element – a good thing to get adrenaline pumping and separate from the mundanity of lockdown.

It goes without saying, but empathy has to be at the forefront of your thoughts. We’re all individuals and will react differently to this situation, so bear that in mind when having multiple conversations. What works for some definitely will not work for others. It’s also important to look after yourself, too. We can’t ask ourselves for support, but we can reserve time to keep to ourselves and undertake activities that we know work for us. Equally, find someone you can talk to and talk to them; it’s amazing when the shoe is on the other foot how much you have to offload and how much better you feel as a result.”

My top tips as a Mental Health First Aider

  • Keep talking! Be it on the phone/video/text, any communication is good. Let those who need the help know you’re there and dictate the medium of how this communication is done.
  • Avoid constant social media trawling. There is more false info and negativity than ever, and the echo chambers that are our social media platforms can transform any problem into a catastrophe.
  • Introduce specific activities for group calls. Quizzes/online gaming/set conversation topics are a great way to keep chat flowing and encourage shyer people to be involved.
  • Ensure you have a confidant to ease your own pressure gauge.
  • Don’t be afraid or guilty of treating yourself. We have enough stresses to be dealing with, that daily cup of tea and homemade cookie is the least you deserve.
  • The old mantra ‘this too will pass’. It is so true.

How other Mental Health First Aiders have benefitted

If you are interested in taking part in a Mental Health First Aid Course you can find out more here.

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