Picking the Best Mental Health First Aid Training Provider for You

You now have a wealth of choice when it comes to picking a Mental Health First Aid training provider for your group. They will all have the MHFA England Stamp of approval so does it really matter which one you choose? After all, according to the MHFA England licensing guidelines all Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) courses should be run in the same way.

On the ground though, courses are not the same. 

Subtle differences can have a huge impact on your team’s engagement during the course and what they actually get from the experience.

Yes, the topics covered, the learning activities and the takeaway resources are the same for all two-day MHFA courses, but the trainers themselves are all different. 

Every trainer brings their own qualities to the table. Whether that’s their energy, their humour, their life experiences, their qualifications, their values, their style of communication or simply their passions. 

So if you’re going to invest in a course for your team, it’s worth giving some thought to what kind of trainer would be best for you. Here are five crucial questions to help you with the selection process.

1. What training style is best for your team?

  • Is formal and corporate most appropriate, or do you want a trainer that is professional but down-to-earth?
  • Would your team respond well to a quiet, gentle manner or do you want someone who is more dynamic and helps to drive the energy in the room?
  • Are your group ‘easy listeners’ or do you need to have someone who communicates in an empowering, passionate way that captures and keeps their attention? 
  • Do you need a trainer with the experience and confidence to deal with more challenging individuals in a positive way?
  • Will they respond better with a serious approach or do they engage better in a more relaxed environment with someone that can work with their humour and banter?

The Mental Health First Aid course is a pretty intense period of time for your team to work with someone. So it’s worth giving thought to the individual personalities within the group and considering what type of trainer they would engage well with for two days of training. 

If you don’t know who exactly will be attending the course(s) then reflect on what type of training would fit your company’s culture best.   

Once you have an idea of what training style would work well,  your next step is to find out more about the trainer and how they come across.

You can pick up clues about their approach from the style of their website and what snippets of info they give on the home page and the ‘about us‘ sections. If they share testimonials and reviews, take a browse and see if course members have mentioned their training style at all. 

If they’re active professionally on social media then check out their profiles and posts. You’ll get an idea of what they tend to focus on and what their key interests are. Keep your eye out for any videos too. These will give you a sneak preview of how they communicate and you’ll get a sense of what kind of energy they put out too.

If you’re still not sure, and a face-to-face meeting isn’t possible, then a quick Skype call can give you a great indicator of whether they’re the right person for you.   

2. Will the trainer’s background make a difference?

MHFA instructors stem from a range of backgrounds and have different reasons for running the course: 

  • Trainers with lived experienced of mental health conditions
  • Those who have worked in the Mental Health Sector
  • Individuals who did the two-day MHFA course themselves and wanted to share the knowledge wider
  • Physical first aid instructors who have extended their qualification base to include Mental health First Aid 

AND

  • Coaches and trainers whose core focus is the enhancement of Performance and Wellbeing in organisations

Trainers don’t always sit in just one ‘box’, but whichever ‘boxes’ they do fit in, their experiences and underpinning motivations for running the course will influence the way that they work with groups. The examples they give when they’re teaching, and their level of emphasis on particular topics, are just a couple of ways that their values and experiences shine through. What kind of background experience would be most relevant for your team?

3. Do you want a Mental Health First Aid Training Provider who will tailor the course for your team?

The MHFA courses are all based on extensive research and have really useful (and often surprising) national statistics. There are some differences in the challenges faced by certain sectors and industries though, and even geographical locations make a difference. So if you think that may apply to your organisation then it’s worth finding out if the trainer will take this into consideration.

The groups we work with tend to respond best when they can see the direct relevance of the course. So we try to ensure that each and every Sky Bounders course is tailored and relevant to the group in the room. Most of our courses are run on an in-house basis and before each course we make sure that we’re up to speed with the particular challenges for their specific sector. This includes having details of any relevant statistics and support organisations for their location. 

4. Is a Mental Health First Aid Course all you want?

Some trainers will just offer the two-day Mental Health First Aid Course, whereas others can run the full range of MHFA courses, including the one-day Mental Health Champion, the half-day Mental Health Awareness course and a variety of Workplace Wellbeing and Performance Workshops too.

For many organisations we’ll train their selection of Mental Health First Aiders and then deliver a range of Mental Health Awareness and Wellbeing workshops. These help their wider workforce to proactively manage and strengthen their own wellbeing. So their employees have a greater understanding of looking after their own mental health and they have a team of people that can help if they do have issues. 

Other smaller organisations may just want one Mental Health First Aid Course for a group of selected members of staff. This is typically for their line managers and people in their HR and Health and Safety departments. 

So it really depends on what you want for your workforce and how the MHFA course sits with your Wellbeing Strategy overall.

5. Do you want ongoing support for your Mental Health First Aiders?

Mental Health First Aiders usually finish their course fired up with ideas and motivation. Then they sometimes hit stumbling blocks when they are putting their newfound skills and knowledge into action. Ongoing support during that first year can really help to stimulate ideas and to resolve any issues or difficulties that crop up.

A few training organisations offer ongoing contact. For example, Sky Bounders provides optional mentoring support for Wellbeing Leads and Mental Health First Aiders. This can really help to make sure that the First Aider feels supported, and they’re in a better position to make a difference in the workforce too.

Booking training for your team is an investment. Yes, the MHFA course is a set format and you could pick any trainer and get the same content. But the experience and ultimately the outcome will be different. Answering these five questions can help you to be confident that you’re choosing the right person and the right organisation for your team.

Find out if Sky Bounders is right for you


Louise Ansell

Louise is a performance, mental health and wellbeing specialist providing training and coaching solutions for individuals and organisations. This includes the MHFA Mental Health First Aid Courses, tailored Workplace Wellbeing Workshops and working with leaders to cultivate effective cultural change within their organisations. She writes most of the Sky Bounders courses and articles and works with a range of clients on a personal coaching, training and consultancy basis. Beyond the work context, you'll find her enjoying life’s crazy adventures – whether that’s in the mountains, climbing on sea cliffs, trail riding, messing about in boats or simply enjoying exploring beautiful places.

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