The past year has been anything but ordinary – the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, natural disasters and more have tested our resilience. While it can be difficult to remain hopeful during uncertain times, it’s important to believe we can overcome the curveballs life throws our way. But as a Mental Health First Aider, you can inspire hope in your communities, organizations and schools.
Data from Mental Health America showed a considerable increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression in the United States throughout 2020, especially among young people from 11-17. Taking this data into account, it’s evident that many of us could use some extra support. Offering support to someone who is experiencing a mental health challenge isn’t always easy, but it’s important. Hope is the foundation of recovery, and with your Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training, you can play an important role in that.
Inspiring hope while offering support will look different with each person you help, but remember that your main focus should be on a person’s mental wellbeing and resilience. Wellbeing follows a period of recovery, allowing a person to perform well at work, school and in their familial and social relationships. While in a period of wellbeing, a person learns to cope with illness, crisis or trauma associated with challenges while adjusting their lifestyle. Mental wellbeing can also strengthen resiliency – the ability to bounce back to overcome adversity. Other protective factors for mental health include optimism, a sense of purpose in life and social support.
No matter how you lend your support, be sure to listen nonjudgmentally. Keeping a positive attitude and an open mind will show the person that you respect their feelings and that their experiences are valid, regardless of whether you agree with their choices or situation. Asking questions can show that you are listening, but try not to interrupt the person as they share.
Inspiring hope can also look like providing resources and information when appropriate. These can be local resources, national resources or even virtual options. It helps to have that information on hand so you can provide it in a timely manner. Community support groups, local and national hotlines, and online guides are a great start.
Whoever you’re talking to, it’s important that you remind them it’s OK to not be OK. Mental health and substance use challenges are common — one in five American adults lives with a mental health challenge — and they aren’t alone in how they are feeling.
Inspiring hope is one of the most valuable ways you can provide support as a First Aider. Your ongoing support during the recovery process will show someone that you care, and it will strengthen their protective factors. When we instill hope in each other, we can #BeTheDifference for everyone’s mental health and overcome any obstacle.
For more information on how to inspire hope and support those around you, check out some of our other blogs: