“Any disappointment causes frustration, and if it is too intense, then it is difficult to deal with this emotional reaction, which can cause a freeze in the ability to think, analyse and be creative” – VS

Preventing mental health disorders

Often misunderstood and criticised, mental health disorders are however experienced by around 450 million people worldwide according to the WHO (2018), which estimates that 25% of the world’s population will experience a mental disorder during their lifetime. However, the representations of “mental illnesses” among the general public remain stigmatised and full of stereotypes, a view often acquired and shared by the people who suffer from these conditions, who will then tend to mask their distress, resulting in a delay in access to care. These numerous stigmas are also a factor in the exclusion and self-stigmatisation of people with mental health problems.

However, it is perfectly possible to live with a mental health disorder, as long as there is prompt and appropriate care. Changing the image of mental disorders is therefore an important step, as the willingness to seek help and recovery will be easier and quicker if the person feels understood and included, and if it is possible for him or her to discuss it openly.

Finally, it is by informing and opening up dialogue that attitudes towards mental health problems can change, and it is essential to inform oneself in order to be able to take preventive action in mental health. This is done on several levels, both through communication and through first aid.

It is important to be informed?

Mental health disorders remain an unknown and taboo area, a misunderstanding that is often at the origin of a malaise, which can become aggressive towards the other person or oneself, sometimes leading to a conflictual relationship at the legal level. It is by informing oneself that one can de- dramatise a disorder or a situation, be tolerant and non-judgemental, and understand that even if there are conflicts, communication is always possible.

Being informed also means giving oneself tools, elements of understanding and reference points to be able to react in an adapted way in a situation that one may be confronted with. Being prepared also allows us to distance ourselves from a person in distress, a situation that will inevitably generate an important emotional reaction in us, in resonance with our own possible wounds.

Finally, in the same way that a dancer learns a choreography, communicating is something that can be learned, guiding and helping people with mental health problems are not innate skills.

Is it important to take action?

As with physical first aid, mental health first aid is about taking a civic stance, not to mention the fact that not helping a person in danger is the definition of non-assistance to a person in danger.

It may also be important to mention that learning to help opens a space for dialogue with others. This was shown in an Australian study, with an improvement in the mental health of mental health rescuers, who, by learning to detect signs of mental disorder, also learn to be more vigilant about themselves and thus react more quickly. However, it is important to understand that this is not about helping oneself, but about listening and understanding one another better.

Is our action effective?

Since people with a mental health problem find it difficult to talk about it, having a presence that is willing to listen, in a caring and non-judgmental way, can be a way of bringing up the subject, of feeling listened to, but also perhaps of pointing out a problem and therefore not leaving someone in distress. It is a welcome helping hand that will help to recreate and preserve the link, by contributing to the well- being of the other person.

Finally, valuing and encouraging the state of good health can only lead to something positive.

Being a mental health first aider

Taking a Mental Health First Aid course provides the knowledge, skills and confidence to help someone with a mental health condition or crisis until the crisis is resolved, or until appropriate professional help can be provided.

Find training and more information on the role of first aiders: Mental Health First Aid International website.

Without having followed the training, one can already adopt an attitude of non-judgement and listening, by understanding that behind each scene that a person in distress gives us to see, hides a more complex and multifactorial suffering. The objective is therefore to understand that the situation experienced at a given moment is indicative of a much wider malaise, which can be explained by an imbalance between the tensions experienced by the person and the resources available to him or her, that may be integrated and undiscovered.

Illustration / Statement:

“I always had the will to do emergency work, and knowing that I am a psychologist and that I did a lot of first aid when I was younger, taking the mental health first aid training was finally a way to have a key, a plan of action in this field. I was also curious to see how in two days, they could give enough elements to be able to act as a first aider, and I was finally surprised, because it reminded me how much we can provide support in different ways, but also that we always have something to learn, that we can always question things. You can see how you can act as a single first aider, that is, not as a professional, but as a citizen.

Then, I was already a instructor in other fields, and I wanted to learn more about this training, but also to be able to accompany people who were wondering what they could have done in different situations, especially as it affects many people. I find it interesting to transmit to people who are willing to learn, but also to accompany them in the resistance and preconceived ideas they may encounter, and to identify the obstacles of the trainees on their mental health issues. Moreover, it is also a way of contributing to the well-being of others to transmit a posture that responds to a need to know how to act and react.”