The World Health Organization (WHO) is behind World Mental Health Day, which is always observed on 10 October, and the campaign for this year is “Move for mental health: let’s invest”. We spend a lot of time in our workplaces, and that’s why it’s appropriate for everyone to think about how they might support a colleague - not just with life-saving CPR, but also with first aid for mental health.

Hopefully, many of us already know how to help a severely ill or injured person with CPR and the LABC (Life-threatening situation, Airways, Breathing Circulation) action plan. Many people have probably attended a CPR course (but if you feel it was a long time ago, there are CPR courses available at the University).

Another action plan for mental health first aid

But fewer of us have probably come across the corresponding mnemonic for mental health first aid action plan. In essence, it’s about being a fellow human being, asking questions and helping a colleague who is mentally unwell to get help from professional sources and to help themselves. So it might be useful and helpful to remember ALGEE as the mnemonic for the following steps:

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm.
  • Listen non-judgementally.
  • Give reassurance and information.
  • Encourage appropriate professional help.
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

It might also be useful to know that all employees at Uppsala University can make an appointment to visit a psychologist/counsellor at the University’s health service for work-related mental health problems.

Aiming to reduce prejudice

Mental health first aid or MHFA originated in Australia. The idea of MHFA is to increase everyday awareness of mental health as well as to provide help to those in mental distress in the same way as we do with those who are in physical distress. As more people learn ALGEE and think ‘mental health first aid’, hopefully this will also reduce prejudice and negative attitudes towards those who are mentally unwell or suffering from a mental illness.