I trained to become a Mental health first aider in 2018. Like physical first aid, which is administering help and support when people have a physical injury, mental health first aid is there to provide support when people need emotional help. 
 
Mental health first aiders are not counsellors, some might be trained counsellors, but the idea is to provide people with the skills they need to support their wellbeing. 
The training also provides a lot of information to be able to signpost people to support for recovery. 
 
I am a wellbeing advocate, having had to learn to cope with trauma and life change after I lost my mother at 17. 
 
I am passionate about mental health and put wellbeing at the top of everything I do. Working in HR, it is sometimes difficult to strike that balance between being commercial, supporting business and employee, but so far I have been able to do that quite well. My intuition always guides me. 
 
This year, Mental Health Day arrives amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected our lives in ways we would have never imagined just 10 months ago. The World Health Organisation cites that close to 1 billion people are living with a mental health disorder! 
 
The pandemic has caused misery for many who have not only had to deal with the loss of their loved ones but also their livelihoods due to job loss, as well as isolation arising from lockdowns. Added to that is the fact that health providers have had to divert resources to dealing with COVID-related cases which have resulted in a disruption to mental health provision. 
 
We have to find ways we can protect our mental health and prevent ourselves from going down the slippery slope. And it doesn’t take much. Latest findings from the Mental Health Foundation suggest the most popular coping activities such as: 
 
Going out for a walk (I do that a lot especially after a long day of being stuck indoors, and to let off steam) 
Contacting family or friends – it doesn’t have to be on a video call, the good old fashioned phone call works (I am old enough to remember the 1990s BT phone advert “It’s good to talk”)  
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle – getting enough sleep, exercise and a good diet, and finding a hobby 
 
Lockdown has encouraged people to take up hobbies – I have rediscovered my love of cooking, baking and gardening. 
 
We also need to train our minds to stop thinking negative thoughts and making some assertions that don’t help our mental wellbeing - I call them 'scary thoughts.' 
 
I have shared a small piece curated from a selection of literature and my personal experience below. 
 
“I have failed. I made a mistake. I won’t get another chance.” 
My number one mantra now is “Failures are lessons learnt. I am a work in progress.” 
As long as we are alive, we are constantly evolving, we will continue to evolve. It is not over until we take our last breath. You will get another chance. It may not be the same opportunity, but it will happen. Learn from mistakes and move on. Try not to repeat them. One door closes and another one opens. 
 
“Time is running out.” 
The world has taught us that youth is the be it and end-all. You have to have done this by this age and that by that age. No. Everyone has their destiny. Of course, it is necessary to have goals, have a purpose and some direction in life. Good to reach those milestones like finishing college by 22 etc. It is wonderful to have made it by the age of 30! Woohoo! But what if for some reason you haven’t? Life sometimes throws curveballs and things do not always turn out the way we want them to. What if you finally find your purpose in life in your 50s? You are never too old. Look around and observe people who have made it later in life and take some consolation from that. “It’s not over until it’s over”. 
 
“I am scared of losing it all.” 
I read somewhere that luxuries are not necessities. That is hard. I love my creature comforts - nice, clean, fluffy pillows; luxe skincare and makeup; nice food; lovely holidays etc. But what if I was unable to have some of those things? 
In Summer 2018 I did some voluntary work with an Education Charity in rural Sierra Leone. It was the very first time I spent time outside the capital Freetown. Living conditions were very basic. My family did not think I would survive. That trip was life-changing. I saw people living with very little, I had to join in, my creature comforts were not available. It was a wake-up call. I realised that I had been taking some aspects of life for granted. I CAN live without certain things. (Hmmm maybe in the short-term and it would need an adjustment for the long-term. But it is doable. No one will die.) What mattered was that I had the basics. Food, shelter, kindness and generosity of spirit from the people around me.  
I have also read countless stories and met people who lost everything and had to start again. They did just fine. My grandmother used to say “Once there is life, there is hope.” 
 
“I am in the wrong job, wrong relationship etc…That person is living their best life and I am not.” 
 
Welcome! The grass is always greener! What I have realised is that other people have similar or even worse struggles. You are not the only one. Water yours and it just might become greener than that one over the fence. 
 
Finally, if you ever feel like you need support to get through some of your scary thoughts, there is plenty of help out there. 
 
Useful sources of information: 
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk 
https://www.mind.org.uk 
https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/ 
 
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