Date published: March 16, 2017
Sessions offer advice on helping friends in mental distress
We are holding a series of free events to give you practical advice about what to do if you know somebody experiencing mental health problems.
The psychological first aid workshops are aimed at helping people recognise when a friend, family member or colleague is in distress – and to tell them the right thing to say.
The sessions were designed by Dr Mark Widdowson, Senior Lecturer in Counselling and Psychotherapy, who says that with one in four people experiencing mental health issues at some point in their lives, having a basic understanding of what to look out for and what to say is an essential skill. You can register for a session here.
He explained: “People are often very well intentioned, but can say things that aren’t experienced as useful by those on the other end – telling someone with severe depression that they need to ‘cheer up’ isn’t helpful. A lot of people know that it’s easy to say the wrong thing and so don’t say anything, which can leave the distressed person feeling even more isolated.
“The idea of these sessions isn’t to train people to become counsellors, it’s about providing very simple advice about what to say and what not to say as well as who you should advise people to talk to.
“This is also about learning how to recognise problems in people – such as if you have a friend that keeps cancelling on you when you’re going out it’s possible that they could have anxiety, and there are ways of opening up that conversation so they don’t feel embarrassed.”
Each session will provide training to up to 250 people and will cover basic mental health awareness, understanding how to recognise mental health crises, how to provide basic psychological support to someone in distress and which organisations to direct them to. Anyone who comes to the sessions will receive a certificate of attendance.
The first event will be held at the Council Chamber in the Old Fire Station on The Crescent on March 27, with a series of other sessions being held at different University locations throughout the spring and summer.
The workshops have been paid for by the Salford Advantage Fund, which is supported by generous donations by alumni and other friends of the University and which pays for a range of schemes such as bursaries for care leavers.
Dr Widdowson hopes the sessions can also be offered to outside organisations such as businesses and charities keen to make their own staff more aware of mental health issues.
He said: “We tend to treat mental health issues as a taboo subject, and talk in hushed tones about people who for example have been off work with depression, but as well as providing practical advice these sessions are about breaking down those barriers and making people understand that these are important issues which we need to talk about.”
The events are all free but anyone interested in attending needs to register in advance.