Wessex Archaeology have committed to prioritising a range of positive steps to improve our company approach to mental health and wellbeing. Amongst these steps was the commitment to provide selected staff with Mental Health First Aid training, alongside other longer-term initiatives.

On the 17th and 18th September 2019, 8 members of staff from the Sheffield office, and 3 from Edinburgh undertook Mental Health First Aid training in Sheffield. For some of the Sheffield office staff this built on the Mental Health Awareness training we received last year.

Our trainer, Stephanie de la Haye was an experienced mental health professional with an in-depth knowledge of the course but also of local and national services. Stephanie delivered a comprehensive two-day course which began with the trainees looking inwards and assessing their own current stress levels and identifying healthy, and not so healthy coping strategies. We identified our own Frame of Reference; a term used to refer to our own individual filter on reality which is influenced by multiple factors including our place of birth, work, relationships, education etc. All of this helped to build a base for understanding that people’s day to day mental health depends on lots of different factors, and that each person we encounter is unique and that having a non-judgemental outlook is vital. 

Two of the most prevalent mental health issues across the population are depression and anxiety, often coming hand in hand. We were shown how to spot some of the early warning signs of both and to understand some of the effects living with these issues can have on people’s day to day lives. We also covered other issues such as self-harm and psychosis along with the best action to take in a crisis situation, when someone is at risk of harm to themselves, or others. For all of these we were given the tools to safely assess a situation and be able to help our friends, family and colleagues. 

Lots of us will recognise the physical first aid acronym ‘ABC’ which stands for Airways, Breathing, Circulation, and gives the first aider a system of processes and checks to assess the immediate risks to the casualty they are dealing with. Mental health first aid is no different, and we were taught the benefits of the ‘ALGEE’ system.

This system takes the trained mental health first aider through the steps they need to go through to assess a situation and the appropriate steps to take to offer the person who is suffering help, and guidance.

Archaeology comes with a whole host of situations particular to the job. We can often end up living away with our colleagues for months at a time and are in a unique position to pick up on those little changes to daily life that may indicate that someone isn’t at their best mental health. The members of staff who undertook the training hold positions within the many disciplines that Wessex covers, meaning our colleagues now have multiple points of contact to access help and guidance on mental health issues, and the reassurance that, should a crisis situation occur, someone with appropriate training will be on hand to guide everyone through.

Why not take the time to #addressyourstress today and do your own weekly wellbeing check? If there’s something not quite right why not seek out your nearest mental health first aider for a chat and a cup of tea and see what they can do to help.