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MHFA and COVID

2022 is here! Remember when Covid-19 arrived in 2020 and we were taking our shelter in place, trying to flatten the curve to get ahead of the spread? Who would have thought we would still be here, two years later, still struggling with this new normal of Covid-19. Never did I ever think I would be living through a time that would be impacting my family, friends and neighbors so greatly as now. I have watched as my children have had a full stop of the typical school experience. My children are currently in Kindergarten and First Grade. They have yet to experience a “normal” school year without social distancing, masks and quarantines. My youngest child, who will turn two in January 2022, has yet to have a family birthday party where all of her cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents could join in the celebration in person. I’ve watched friends and neighbors say goodbye to loved ones from a distance due to health issues that were otherwise manageable, but were complicated by Covid-19 and lose their livelihood as they had to shut down their small businesses in the height of an economic crisis. The impact that the Pandemic has brought has not been an easy transition and I’m weary thinking about how 2022 will further impact us.

The only thing I am confident about in 2022 is how we can better prepare ourselves to better support our family, friends and neighbors in this difficult time. Mental Health First Aid training is a valuable tool that can be used to help link individuals to resources when they are facing mental health challenges. During the pandemic, it can often be overwhelming to think about how we can support our family, friends and neighbors when we are physically distant. Mental Health First Aid training helps participants learn about the stigma associated with mental health and discuss how to implement an action plan to get someone the appropriate help they need when they are experiencing a mental health or substance-use related crisis. Once becoming a Mental Health First Aider, we can use the tools learned to better assist our family, friends and neighbors. What are some of those ways?

We check in. It sounds simple enough, but typically when someone asks “how are you doing?” our first response is a generic, “I’m fine.” and we move on. When a Mental Health First Aider checks in, they are checking in with real authenticity and substance. They let the person know that they are really interested in their wellbeing and not the generic answer. They take the time to listen, show concern, reflect, ask questions, listen some more and remind the person that we are there for them as well as directing them to additional resources and support in the community. We avoid assuming just because someone seems alright, that they are not privately struggling with something or that if the struggle was too overwhelming, they would ask for help or assistance. Some people are better at hiding their pain and struggle while others are actually managing just fine. As First Aiders, we won’t know how someone is really doing until we check in and have an actual conversation with genuineness to see how someone is truly fairing during the pandemic. 

We reflect on our own state of mind. Before approaching someone with concerns, it’s important we pay attention to what our own mind and bodies need to make sure we are in the right frame of mind to talk and listen without being judgmental. Sometimes, we may not be in the best place to help someone and may need to reach out to our own healthy supports before taking on a First Aider roll with others.  Reflect on your own state of mind to make sure you are feeling calm, open and ready to help support individuals in your community.

Mental health concerns have been on the rise since the beginning of Covid-19. Getting trained in Mental Health First Aid is a way to support ourselves and our communities. It’s important we start normalizing the conversation around mental health and start checking in, providing support and resources in our communities. Let’s continue having conversations with our family, friends and neighbors and remember, no one is alone.

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