A South Cumbrian entrepreneur is offering free online First Aid for Mental Health courses to NHS workers to say thank you for all their hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Phil Newton, Managing Director of Barrow-based Skills Shop Ltd, says stress and anxiety levels are rising during the pandemic and he wants to help create ‘Wellbeing Champions’ who can support colleagues, friends and family who might be experiencing mental health issues.

Throughout 2021 Phil is waiving the usual £195 plus VAT fee to NHS workers who sign up for his company’s online First Aid for Mental Health Level 2 Award course.

He is launching the initiative in the run-up to Random Acts of Kindness Day, which this year falls on Wednesday, February 17.

“Now, more than ever, it’s important that people look out for the mental health of their work colleagues, friends and family,” said Phil, 43.

“This course will enable people to spot the signs and symptoms of someone struggling with their mental health so they can help them to get the right support.”

The course covers identifying specific mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety and self-harm and understanding the effects of drugs and alcohol. It helps people understand how to start a conversation with someone who they believe might be struggling and how to signpost those people to get the help they need.

Phil said the course would be useful for any NHS worker including, for example, a practice manager or receptionist in a GP surgery or a junior doctor, a nurse and a porter in a hospital.

He said there were many benefits to NHS staff taking the course. It could help them support colleagues, family or friends who might be struggling with stress, anxiety and depression. They might also recognise symptoms of such conditions in themselves that they had not previously understood.

Phil explained why he had chosen to offer the course free to NHS staff. “It is part of Skills Shop’s corporate social responsibility activity,” he said. “We just love to give back in any way we can and this is our personal way of thanking all those who work for the NHS for all their hard work and the sacrifice they have made this past year during the pandemic.”

One business manager who has previously taken Skills Shop’s First Aid for Mental Health course said:

“With the help of Skills Shop, all of our managers have been trained to level 2 standard in Mental Health First Aid. This enables our team of Well-Being Champions to spot the signs and symptoms of someone going through some form of mental anguish and signposting them to get the right help and support.”

Another described it as:

“…the most thorough and personable training I’ve done around this topic”.

Those who sign up to the course get instant access, their own user name and password and the opportunity to take, and print out, digital notes. The course can be done in stages over a period if preferred. On completion of an online assessment at the end, they receive an in-house Skills Shop certificate. If they want the course to be OFQUAL accredited, they pay £15 plus VAT and Skills Shop organises for them to receive an accredited certificate. The certificate is valid for three years.

Any NHS worker who wants to take the free course – or an NHS manager who wants to sign up members of their team – should go to https://skillsshop.co.uk/product/first-aid-for-mental-health/ They should use their NHS work email when checking out and enter NHSTALK21 into the coupon box.

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