Irene Weber – First aider for mental health
The mental health of our employees and students matters to us. As in 2021, Bern University of Applied Sciences is offering first aid courses for mental health (ensa) also in 2022. So far, 86 ensa first aiders have completed their training. Irene Weber is one of them. Here, she talks about her impressions.
In the ensa courses BFH employees are trained in early recognition of mental problems in their environment and day-to-day routine.
Irene, as a coordinator at BFH-AHB in Biel you are in frequent contact with people from all walks of life, what motivated you to attend the “ensa” first aid course for mental health?
For me, the greatest motivation in my everyday life is the contact with other people. Often the exchange takes place on a professional level, but some conversations go deeper, and that is something I appreciate a lot. Time and again I notice burdensome issues such as stress and strain or overload. Talking about these things is not easy, though, as mental illness is still very much considered a taboo subject. That’s why the ensa course appealed to me so much: How can mental problems be addressed in conversation? And what is appropriate in a professional context?
Which methods and aids are taught in the course?
The course provides basic knowledge about mental illnesses, from depression to anxiety disorders to complex psychoses. In the Samaritans’ Association I learnt the ABC’s for early intervention, here the scheme is called ROGER. This is used in conversation when there are tangible signs of a mental illness. Such situations are practised in role plays, something that was both challenging and extremely helpful. Once I had to address a person’s suicidal thoughts without beating about the bush – that was hard, even in a staged setting! Where the scope of action and the limits for a first aider lie and how one can assist a person in taking further steps is very well conveyed. In our group, many personal experiences came up as well – there was room for everything, and it was addressed in a professional manner.
You are now a certified first aider for mental health at BFH – how does what you have learnt help you in your daily life and work environment?
The course gave me the self-confidence to address mental health problems directly when they are suspected. You learn that a mental illness is "just" an illness and that the person can be helped. In the work context, but also in the private environment, this is extremely valuable! I hope to consolidate the role of a first aider in my profession and to contribute to mental health at BFH.
What do you do for your own mental health? Has the course also affected your personal awareness?
There were also specific conversations about how to strengthen one's own mental health, for example through social contacts and an active lifestyle - as the mum of two small children, I automatically practice this. Another suggestion: a simple blood test at your GP can sometimes work wonders. I have certainly become more mindful in dealing with warning signs that point to a mental problem. I can highly recommend the ensa course – the more mental illness is talked about, the more the taboo loses its power.
One in two people will experience mental health problems at some point in their lives. The longer those affected do not receive help, the worse the problems can become. BFH provides active support for its employees in taking the issue of mental health seriously and addressing it both in the daily work routine and in leisure time. So far 86 first aiders for mental health have completed their training at BFH.
Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering
Solothurnstrasse 102, Biel
At BFH since:
Describe BFH in 3 words:
shaping, inspiring, complex
My contribution to diversity at BFH:
I started out as a special needs teacher and have issues like diversity, integration and participation for everybody in my blood, so to speak. As a co-ordinator I am privileged to occupy a hub position and can build bridges between people!