Updated: Nov 18, 2020
What is Mental Health First Aid? Why have I taken this course? What has this got to do with Styling?
“MHFA is designed to empower people to support their own mental health and that of the people they connect with in life. By giving people the facts about mental health and the practical skills to support wellbeing, we work towards building healthier communities free from stigma” MHFA England
Mental Health is a subject which I am personally very interested in having experienced my own battle with Anxiety and panic attacks for 15 years. It is a subject which has in previous years carried a huge stigma around it with many being unwilling to discuss how they were feeling for fear of being ridiculed. Now we are much more open to talking about our mental health and many celebrities, well known public figures and even members of the Royal Family themselves are talking about their own mental health and therefore reducing the stigma around it.
Through my work as a stylist I meet many people from all different walks of life. In the last 2 years I have worked voluntarily with students at West Kent College who are just starting out in the world and also with paying clients who are potentially experiencing or have experienced, life altering events such as grief, divorce or a serious illness like Cancer.
There are many things which can affect a person’s level of mental health and it can manifest itself in a number of ways. Mental Health is equally as important as your physical health and one can definitely affect the other. 1 in 4 people will experience poor mental health each year.
By 2025 it is hoped that there will be a Mental Health First Aider in every work place in the UK, just as you would have a physical First Aider. Someone you can go to if you are experiencing poor mental health who is trained, not to diagnose or treat you, but to listen without judgement and to point you in the right direction to seek any necessary help.
As I have already mentioned I suffered with crippling Anxiety and Panic Attacks for 15 years. Thankfully, 2 years ago I decided to seek treatment because it was affecting how I would function in my every day life. In the future I would like to write more about my anxiety and subsequent treatment but I really wanted to explain the reasons why I decided to take this course to become a Mental Health First Aider.
Primarily it was for my own interest in the subject and a desire to learn. The course went into much detail about all the different illnesses you can experience through having poor mental health and I have to admit that some parts were very heavy going.
It made me realise the importance of self-care, how important it is for each and every one of us to look after our physical and mental health so we are able to really enjoy life and live our best life. I for one, did not live my best life for many years because I was so crippled by Anxiety, it would stop me from doing things on a day to day basis that would not even be an issue for others.
My styling business was born out of me finally being Anxiety free, prior to my treatment I would not have been able to drive myself to the training course! Anxiety was stopping me from doing so many things and preventing me, and my daughter from living life to the full.
I love the work that I do as a Stylist, it is so varied and new challenges are always popping up. This time last year I did my first ever public speaking appointment where I gave a styling talk to a room of nearly 100 people. A few years ago, I would not have even been able to sit in a room of that many people let alone stand up at the front and talk.
In my role as a Stylist, the MHFA training is not to enable me to psychoanalyse a client or to try to treat or fix another person. I enrolled myself on the course for my own personal development to better understand my own mental health but also so that if I do get into discussions with clients about any mental health related issues, then I am trained to deal with it appropriately.
I hope that it will be of comfort to existing or potential clients to know that I take my work very seriously and that they will be in safe hands. My work has always been and will continue to be centred around each person’s wellbeing and not just about buying clothes, shoes and handbags!
It is natural during a session that conversation opens up and we start to share stories and experiences. Drawing on my own life experiences I am able to empathise with the people I meet and if you know me you will know that I love to chat! I love to share my stories especially if I think it will inspire another to follow their dream but it is also important to me, for my own emotional wellbeing and especially that of my clients, to put the appropriate boundaries and necessary training in place.
It is not lost on me that it can take some people a long time to pluck up the courage to call a stylist and book an appointment. They may be fearful that the stylist (me) will intimidate them or will be judgemental of them, their clothes or their home. It can be daunting opening the front door to a stranger when you are make-up free and that stranger is then in your home, your bedroom and more specifically your wardrobe and is looking at all your clothes.
These are peoples very personal spaces and this can and often does, evoke very strong emotions. A styling session has often been referred to as a form of therapy, it is indeed a very therapeutic and cathartic process, but a stylist is trained to be a stylist and not a therapist! It is perfectly normal that people will confide in you or talk to you about very personal things, it’s important to me that should or when that happen, I am equipped to respond in the correct and professional manner.
Part of what makes this job so rewarding is knowing that I have made a difference, however small to each and every one of the people I meet and that they know that they have received the best possible care.
“Mental Health is defined as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” World Health Organisation; 2014
Thank you for reading,
Mental Health First Aid is an internationally recognised education & training programme originally conceived in Australia in 2001 and now running in many countries around the world. MHFA does not teach people to provide a diagnosis or therapy. MHFA England