Historically, the role of peer-to-peer mental health support was one of the Mental Health First Aiders. A reactive role focussed on identifying and supporting/signposting colleagues who have reached or are close to breaking point.
In the last few years, the role has evolved to become more proactive, one that promotes mental health and wellbeing, breaking stigma around the subject of mental health and looks to help colleagues seek support early before they reach crisis point. This change of emphasis, when supported properly by management, has seen significant improvements in how employees engage with the subject of mental ill-health.
The role of a Mental Health Ambassador has many names – Mental Health First Aider/Buddy/Champion etc. For this article, I will use the term Mental Health Ambassador because it encompasses the broader role of promoting mental health culture as well as supporting colleagues.
So, what makes a good Mental Health Ambassador?
I have worked with several organisations to establish Mental Health and Wellbeing Ambassador Networks. One of the key lessons I have learned is the importance of setting individual Ambassadors up for success by defining the role and highlighting the traits and behaviours that will make a good ambassador.
The role requires a degree of empathy, but also the ability to manage one’s own emotional responses to what may be emotionally challenging conversations.
Using Trait Theory and Behaviour Competency Analysis we have identified key behaviours that we believe will make a good Mental Health Ambassador. It is not essential that volunteers demonstrate all these interpersonal skills, but the more they demonstrate the greater the chances they will have to be suitable for, enjoy, and make a success of the role.
- Outgoing – to be sociable and enjoy meeting new people.
- Enthusiastic – to be keen and excited about reaching a goal.
- Resilient – to actively support yourself to work through barriers and obstacles.
- Helpful – to respond to others’ needs and assist, or support, others.
- Warmth/empathy – to be able to express positive feelings and affinity towards others.
- Optimistic – to believe the future will be positive.
- Diplomatic – to state things in a tactful manner.
- Self-reflection – to reflect on your own emotional needs and know when to ask for help, if needed.
- Self-improvement – to embrace opportunities to learn, develop and better oneself.
- Cause motivated – to be motivated to help society (rather than for personal gain).
Behaviours not helpful to the role:
- Blunt – the tendency to be frank or direct without being sufficiently tactful or diplomatic.
- Dogmatic – to be certain of opinions without being open to different ideas.
- Self-sacrificing – to be overly helpful at the expense of your own emotional wellbeing.
We encourage potential Ambassadors to have an open conversation with their line managers and reflect on whether they are a good fit for the role.
However, this is only a small part of the development of Mental Health Ambassador Networks. Other key aspects include appropriate training, continued personal development and support. If you are interested in setting up a network, please contact us at:
Mobile: 07528 280280