Mental Health Awareness Training

Photograph of an 'Salisbury Journal' advertisting board with the words 'You look normal to me' written on the front.
Aidan Moesby at Salisbury International Arts Festival. Photo by Aidan Moesby

Last month, staff from Shape and Artsadmin – the two organisations that co-deliver Unlimited – came together to undertake some Mental Health Awareness Training delivered by Rethink Mental Illness. Becky Dann, one of Unlimited’s two trainees, tells us what she took away from the day.

 Mental Health is something everyone knows about but a high percentage of the time people don’t talk about. In a previous blog, drawing on the Root Experience event ‘Hidden Project Conversation Day’, I wrote about a survey created by Alice Holland, where the public were asked ‘have you ever hidden a mental health condition or symptoms for professional reasons?’ and every single response received back was ‘yes’.

Commencing the Mental Health Awareness Training session, our trainer spoke about our individual ‘stress buckets’, which I found very useful and which helped ease all of us into thinking about mental health in a way we could relate to. You may be wondering how a bucket has anything to do with mental health, well the bucket represents you and what you carry with you emotionally. When we face different stress situations our ‘bucket’ starts to fill; this can be things like stress at home, in the workplace, financial stress, anxieties, relationship stress and so on. If there are multiple stressful factors going on in your life eventually the bucket can become too full. This can affect our mental health and affect how we think and feel, but the analogy goes that we can change the way our bucket works and the impact of stress by adding ‘holes’ into the bottom of our bucket to let the stress out. The holes are things that productively help us relieve stress and stop our buckets from overflowing – these can be things such as rest and relaxation, talking to trusted people, doing something we enjoy or good time management. It’s important to take the time to figure out what helps you relieve stress and to make sure your holes keep working before the bucket becomes too full and could potentially overflow.

Another part of the day that I found really interesting was when we were asked to close our eyes and listen to an extract from a newspaper being read to us. I can’t remember it word for word, but it included: ‘1,216 people were killed by redheads from 2001-2010 — an average of 122 deaths a year’ and ‘red-headed people are up to ten times more likely to become a victim of crime than the average person, a shock report reveals today.’ Once the extract had been read, we were told to open our eyes and say what this information made us feel. We opened our eyes to look at our red-headed trainer, and collectively explained that our perceptions of her had changed as a result of hearing the extract. We said that we might now suddenly feel threatened by or wary of her, but we also felt that she might be feeling scared and isolated now because people were looking at her differently due to the article.

It was then explained to us that the text was adapted from a real article in a well-known tabloid newspaper, with the word ‘redhead’ in the adapted text read to us replacing ‘mental patient’ in the original article; the newspaper had run with the headline: ‘1,200 killed by mental patients’. We were shocked, and discussed how the media is a hugely powerful contributor to the stigma around mental health. With dangerous and misleading articles like these, people are misinformed and mis-educated about mental illness; articles such as this encourage people to see anyone with mental health problems as bad, dangerous or criminals, and to not offer support to those around them, when in reality people with mental health issues are not more likely to commit crimes than those without.

I left the training with so much information and brand new knowledge, and have been continuously thinking about what we learnt ever since. It opened up discussions within our work team about how we can support people within our organisations and beyond.

Rethink Mental Illness offer different types of training to organisations and also have online resources for the workplace. If you’d like to arrange training please visiting the Rethink Mental Illness website.

Shape Arts also offers Disability Equality Training to arts and cultural organisations looking to become more accessible and open up more to disabled people – if you are interested please visit the Shape training page.

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