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Training around mental health

Mental health training at work – how some organisations might be missing the mark and the point 

The entire purpose of training is to build, develop, enhance and strengthen the skills and knowledge of your team, which in turn improves capability.  Training has to change attitudes and behaviour, as well as skill and confidence and if it doesn’t do this, why bother? If the training is going to generate a return on investment, it has to achieve the desired outcome and make a difference for your workplace.  

At the moment lots of organisations see mental health training as an added extra, something worthy that they did and it ticks a box.  So many have followed the crowd and signed up for initiatives and events and run the risk of now sitting back and thinking “that’s us done” but I hate to break the news – there is so much more to it than that. 

Mental Health training is not something you can afford to get wrong

 Mental health and wellness training should be treated with the same importance that you would give to any other essential skills and learning required within your workplace.  The thing with mental health is that we tend not to think about it until we are ill or someone we know is struggling and as yet don’t see it in the same way as we do the health and safety and compliance training that we have been doing for years but here’s the news – the HSE see it as being part and parcel of your duty of care so let’s make sure we are giving the training and development the level of respect it requires.  Let’s face facts – mental and emotional health is like oxygen, you take it for granted until you don’t have it and then it becomes an urgent problem and all the statistics tell us, like a lack of oxygen, it can lead to serious consequences..  

Conference Training Planning Learning Coaching Business Concept

You have heard the 1 in 6 statistic


Healthy businesses rely on healthy staff to achieve healthy performance with healthy profit margins. With at least 1 in 6 of us suffering with a mental health issue which can lead to high levels of absence, poor performance, drop in results and then 1 in 20 having thoughts of suicide, organisations have a responsibility to ensure whatever training they do can make a positive difference. Suicide isn’t only linked to mental illness – in fact less than half of deaths are people who are not diagnosed as mentally ill, simply overwhelmed by life.

A person dies by suicide every two hours

You may have heard already that in the UK alone there are around 6,000 suicides each year,and some recent research suggested that of those deaths, most people are of working age and in fact, 67% of deaths were employees. NOT the image we often have of suicide being people who only have mental illness diagnoses, or people with addictions, homeless people, people in prison … people like you and I that get up in the morning and go to work. 

 Is awareness and training around Mental Health something you can afford to pay lip service to?

Doing Mental Health Training the (b)right way 

  • Awareness is not enough. For learning to stick and make a real difference, learners need to be challenged and have the opportunity to practice the skills they have learnt – Making a commitment to practice is essential to maximise the impact of training. After all, practice is the only way to become proficient in a new skill or behaviour. Like any new learning, knowing something is one thing, doing is quite something else!
  • Learners need the opportunity to question, challenge and feel supported in doing so – an online 15 minute video showed to a group of people is not going to equip them with the understanding or awareness that they will need in a real life situation.  Absolutely it may spell out the key points but all it will offer is a better understanding, not necessarily capability. 

When we do First Aid & CPR training we all hope that we will never need to use it but if the worst happened, having watched a video of somebody else talking about or doing CPR would not help the trainee in an emergency.  Practice and practical demonstrations make us more equipped to cope in real life situations and give us the confidence to do so. Imagine if you were expected to take your driving test after watching a video of someone driving …


  • Training needs to be relevant to the learner so they can do something differently and immediately – all human beings come with their own unique set of beliefs, biases and baggage.  Providing training where the learner is able to ask questions and have them answered provides a more effective learning experience and around the subject of mental health and suicide, people will come to the learning with their own attitude and beliefs and what we know is, that attitude can make the biggest difference. Attitude needs to be challenged and shaped and can be best achieved through being face to face and having chance to engage in two way dialogue and discussion


  • Different people learn and consume information in different ways either through verbal repetition or practical demonstration. One size does not fit all and we need to be able to adapt in the moment to suit the learner – to spot if they are struggling, to intervene and support and build confidence at their pace.
  • Expertise from trainer or tutor – no two people will experience a mental health issue in the same way and not everyone will come to the learning with the same base level of understanding or experience.  Having someone with specific expertise in the room means that learners can ask and have their questions answered by someone who knows what they are talking about and can help them with any emotional block they might be having. 
  • Learning is the process of acquiring new, or modifying existing, knowledge, behaviours, skills, values, or preference” All the training I deliver is based on the 4A model – Awareness, Acknowledgement, Acceptance but then ACTION – transformation can only take place if learning happens at each level. To be able to take action, a learner has to feel sufficiently knowledgeable, skilled and confident – our training focuses on creating a safe place where people can achieve that and feel able to ask questions and discuss their own experiences.    

If you want to get a return on your investment, maximise the bang for your buck, then we need to ensure that the training you engage in achieves the desired outcome. Real learning requires processes and structure if we are to build confidence, skills and retain the knowledge. If you truly want to provide training that actually makes a difference to the health, wellbeing, confidence and attitude of your employees, please don’t simply follow the crowd or tick boxes. Avoid the shiny trinkets and look out for how to build real foundations that are strong and have longevity – invest in stuff that makes an actual difference.

I’m a stickler for training that makes a difference. With a background in industry and a tutor with CIPD, it matters to me that training engages hearts and minds and enables action. Email me today if you’d like to find out more of how I can help?