It is great to see so many people now taking mental health seriously, but we are alarmed at the explosion of those advertising themselves or being handed a role in a workplace as a mental health support person after only a couple of hours in a group workshop or even just by completing an online course. To then say they are able to deal with another’s mental health, is in itself insane, because if it was that easy, everyone would go on a course for an afternoon and then no one would require any support with their mental health.
With figures of depression skyrocketing, the growth of alcoholism and food disorders together with the increase in suicide and attempted suicide rates, it clearly shows the sadly stark state that our country’s mental health is currently in and that it does require additional support, to the already overwhelmed and underfunded NHS system. With this recognition we are witnessing a massive growth within the mental health industry, with a growing variety of courses available to choose from. Such as a child psychology course available online for £12 and lasting only 7.5 hours, a nutritional coaching course, available free online and only taking 15 hours. There are now even mental health first aid courses available for people in the workplace and these range from online courses, through to a two day course costing around £300. Unfortunately it doesn’t end there, we have even seen online courses for £49 which allegedly qualifies the participant to be an addiction specialist.
These are examples of the thousands of courses that many people are taking in order to promote themselves as mental health professionals. Worryingly none of these courses require any previous knowledge, understanding, experience or qualifications. Many of these courses are accessible completely online with no human interaction and if there is a tutor, many are only teaching the course and have no experience, qualifications or understanding themselves of the subject matter. Now ask yourself, do you think or feel that someone who has completed one of these courses, would be adequately equipped to assist you or one of your loved ones, through what may be one of the most challenging times of life?
Unfortunately this ever increasing ‘give it a go’ approach, can and often is incredibly detrimental to the mental health of the person offering their services; In many cases they themselves have not learned to deal with or even to begin to recognise their own issues, let alone differentiate between those of the client and their own. This lack of one of the most fundamental skills can and does inevitably lead to a further deterioration of issues for both provider and the receiver.
In contrast, a typically qualified counsellor progresses through many stages and years of developmental training, including personal elements whereby the trainee goes through their own counselling before they are approved to work with clients and to safeguard this further, these counselling sessions are initially undertaken with supervision for as long as 450 hours. This is to ascertain whether they are able to safely work on their own with clients. To work safely with a client is to be comprehensively trained to recognise the vulnerability of the client, even when the client does not necessarily recognise this within themselves and It would only require a poorly or inadequately trained person to miss very small details, for a situation to spiral downwards into something far, far worse.
Not only are these easily accessed, inadequate courses insulting to those that have invested many years of training in the fields of mental health, it is equally insulting and quite often dangerous for those on the receiving end of this approach because, no matter how well intentioned it may be, it will often lead to the deepening of issues rather than there resolution.
Working with a good coach, counsellor or psychologist can have amazingly positive and enlightening results and can lead to the cessation and even the resolution of many issues leading towards a happier and more fulfilled life. On the flip side, the wrong counselling can potentially cause damage that could lead to a worsening of the overall situation and a further decline in the mental health of the very people it was intended to support.
If you are considering any form of mental and emotional support services we would suggest you talk to any provider beforehand, much like you would interview someone for an important role. Ask them about how they work and what experience they have. It is important that they are able to explain themselves clearly and that you are able to understand what they mean easily and clearly.
All this said, do not be put off from seeking help when you require it. There are lots of fantastic professionals out there. Just ensure they have more than a day course behind them before you place the wellness of your mental health in their hands.