When it comes to first aid, most of us can apply a plaster or a bandage.
Those of us who’ve been on a first aid course can also put a sling on and even treat someone who’s choking, having an anaphylactic reaction or has fainted.
But how many of us would know what to do if a colleague, friend or relative suffered a mental health crisis?
Some mental health conditions can stay completely hidden and go untreated.
And if you noticed someone behaving out of character, which could be a sign that they are developing a mental health condition, what could you do?
Here are six simple ways you could support them.
1. Start a conversation
Start informally by asking someone how they are, make it sound as though you’re really interested in knowing if they are OK.
If necessary, make sure you find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed.
2. Don’t make glib remarks
It’s surprising how many people think it’s helpful to say ‘pull yourself together’.
Would you say ‘just walk it off’ to someone with a broken leg?
Telling someone to ‘cheer up’ isn’t helpful either.
If someone is opening up to you, take them seriously, try to understand and empathise.
3. Really listen
You will gather a lot from not only what the person is saying but how they’re saying it.
Try not to judge them for saying things that (to you) sound irrational – this is a common symptom and a helpful sign that should not be brushed off.
Try not to offer solutions too quickly. Instead, ensure they feel heard and ask them what they think they need.
4. Dealing with any practical issues
A mental health crisis can be made worse by concerns about everyday matters such as paying bills, feeding pets or even cooking food.
Ask if there’s anything of this nature you can support them with.
5. Offer support
It is important if someone is experiencing mental health difficulties that they first see their GP – this can be extremely daunting.
Perhaps you could offer to go with them.
In a severe crisis of mania, psychosis or other extreme distress, the person may need emergency care in A&E, the NHS non-emergency number 111 is a good port of call if you’re unsure.
6. Keep the conversation going
Make sure the person knows you’ll continue to be there for them.
Even if they get help from professionals, it will always be helpful to have another person they know they can turn to.
The understanding that mental health first aid is as vital as physical first aid is growing.
Prime Minister Theresa May is looking at offering every secondary school in the country mental health first aid training and developing new partnership with employers.
This cannot happen soon enough.