Mental Health First Aid and the Facilitator

by Jessica Delaney, Principal, Engagement + Strategic Communications

I just finished my first-ever Mental Health First Aid course with the Mental Health Commission of Canada. You can learn more about their courses here:

As a facilitator, I wanted to build out my toolbox to better support participants, particularly as we engage on potentially difficult or triggering conversations. While I learned a lot in the course, I also learned that much of the ALGEES approach (more on that later) is actually about helping a person facilitate their own action plan. As with facilitation, it’s about knowing when to engage using a variety of open- and closed-ended questions so that the person feels safe and can start to think about action planning and next steps.

The ALGEES framework is based on the following approach:

Assess the risk of suicide and/or harm
Listen non-judgmentally
Give reassurance
Encourage professional support
Encourage other supports
Selfcare for the First Aider

What struck me with this approach is the S of Selfcare for the First Aider. I think, as facilitators, self care is something at which we could do a better job. Personally speaking, I know that I take on a lot of responsibility for how every session goes – the feel of the room and the experience of participants. So, my hope is that I, along with my fellow facilitators, will see that:

  • We are well positioned to be mental health first aiders,
  • We likely will have opportunities to practise the principles of mental health first aid, and
  • It is important that, when supporting others, we also take care of ourselves.

Thank you to my course instructor Cliff Thorbes and all the participants in our course.

Stay well, Jessica