Mental Health Awareness Week

We talk to Christelle Lomondais about becoming MAR’s first official Mental Health First Aider…

At MAR, we are passionate about creating a culture where employees feel safe discussing their mental health concerns. Our ‘Mental Health First Aider’ programme has been recently introduced to encourage conversations about mental health, break down stigmas, and create a healthier, more supportive environment for everyone. These specialised first aiders provide a judgement free ear and the knowledge and tools to support any of their peers who may be struggling with mental health concerns.

As part of Mental Health Awareness week, we sat down with Christelle Lomondais, MAR’s first official Mental Health First Aider, to discuss her role in promoting good mental health in the workplace and the wider environment.

What made you want to become a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA)?

I volunteered as soon as I heard that MAR was looking for Mental Heath First Aiders! – I believe looking after one’s mental health is very important and I was very keen to find out more information to help myself and others.

What training do you have to complete to become a Mental Health First Aider?

I attended a 2-day training course with St John’s Ambulance where we discussed different types of mental health conditions and what support and information can be provided to support people through difficult times in their lives. The training also included team excercises, in groups of 2-3, where we worked through different potential scenarios that could arise. 

What does being part of the Mental Health First Aider team involve?

Being a MHFA team member means understanding how to provide advice and support for a person suffering from stress or presenting with a mental health episode/condition. We are not professionals and cannot provide anyone with a diagnosis, instead, our role is to provide a confidential listening ear and to direct people towards the specific support, resources, GP services or other professional assistance required, to improve their situations.

What should someone do if they’re experiencing mental health issues at work?

Colleagues who are struggling with their mental health at work, and aren’t sure who to confide in, can approach a MHFA at any time for help and advice. This interaction can take the form of a quick chat, by the coffee machine, or a pre-arranged private appointment at a time that suits them. 

The first aider team also ensures that up-to-date information is available on posters and notice boards around our sites, with a range of services, websites and options for anyone who might be looking for support, but does not wish to discuss their difficulties at work.

Of course, should they prefer, employees always have the additional option of approaching their managers, team leaders or a member of HR, who can liaise with the MHFA team on their behalf, to acquire the resources they need. 

What do you do to look after your mental health and what advice would you give others?

Personally, I try to maintain a really strong work-life balance, separating my job and my private life as much as I can.

I find that if my workload becomes stressful, I can reach out to my colleagues and draw from their experience of dealing with similar situations in the past.

Outside of work, I practice calming breathing exercises which I can implement at work when a situation becomes stressful.

I strongly believe spending lots of time with family/friends, getting a good amount of sleep, exercising regularly and eating healthily are big factors in boosting my mental health!

Opening up to others can be scary but it is an effective way of easing the pressure and you often find that you are not alone and others have gone through similar things to what you are experiencing. 

MAR’s Mental Health First Aider program will be ongoing, resulting in trained colleagues accessible throughout the company. This, combined with other initiatives, will ensure that every employee has access to the resources and support they need to prioritise their mental and physical health.

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