A former firefighter is running a mental health first aid course in Eccles to teach people to recognise warning signs in themselves and others.

Andy Graham, who had to cope with traumatic incidents during 30 years as a firefighter, has used that experience to create MHFA 999, as part of the Mental Health First Aid England courses.

He and associate trained instructors provide the MHFA course around Manchester and reach Eccles on March 28-29.

MHFA is a training course which teaches people how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue.

The course will help people learn how to listen, reassure and respond to a mental health issue.

It also teaches partito not only look after others well-being but also your own well-being and mental health.

With so many people being effected by mental health, learning how to help those around us is important.



Andy said: “It is a Mental Health First Aid England course and they are currently the governing body for all mental health first aid training in England.

“They devise the package and we as approved instructors then go out and deliver it, deliver their materials but we are all freelance.”


Andy who was part of the British Army for three years and then Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue service for 30 years before leaving and developing a passion for physical and mental health first aid.

This passion developing from the personal experiences he dealt with whilst in a part of the emergency services and armed forces.

Andy is able to use his own experience to help others.

“I’m not just a generic trainer, when you go on training courses I guarantee you come across the generic trainer who is just reading from a script and that becomes incredibly boring and feels quite pointless when it’s like that.

“I stick to what I know, that why I don’t just do mental health first aid I do physical first aid like first aid at work as well and that’s because of my background doing 30 years in the fire service.

“Early in my career in the fire services I attended a number of nasty fatal incidents which effected my well-being which back then in the late 80’s/ early 90’s there was no debriefing system in place so had no way in the workplace to open up and speak about what I was feeling; it was a macho atmosphere.

“That inability to open up at work, no outlet there plus not being able to open up at home, I had no outlet for what was going on and it built up and built up and in 1999 after living with it for about 11/12 years, the nightmares, the flashbacks, the panic attacks, the depression and all the rest of it, I did attempt suicide on several occasions.

“It took me a very long time to find the right combination of the of therapist to get me to full health again, since 99 through until 2016 it took me to properly fit and well.

“Looking back, had there have been somebody that I could have spoken too that had this sort of knowledge then the recovery could have been a lot quicker.”

MHFA England is a team of national experienced trainers who have mentored 1,800 instructors across England.

The instructors use their experience and training to independently deliver MHFA courses in communities around the country.

The courses were developed in Australia in 2000 and has since into a global movement.

MHFA was launched under the Department of Health: National Institute of Mental Health in England when it came here in 2007.

It came as part of a national approach to improving public mental health.

MHFA became fully self-funded in 2009, and have since expanded its services to supporting young people, students in higher education, people with learning disabilities and the Armed Forces.

The MHFA has different versions of the course which provide people with different levels of education.

Andy said: “This particular version of the course is over two days and is the gold standard version of the course.

“Over the two days it is split into four sections.

“The morning of day one is learning about what mental health is and learning about the stigma that surrounds mental health, doing work around how we can get rid of that stigma and therefor help people reach out for help when they need it.

“Then we going into looking at depression and suicidal crisis, how we can recognise those things and the sorts of things that we can do to provide support for someone which is the lifesaving part of it.

“On day two we look at anxiety based disorders along with eating disorders, self-harming and then psychosis related disorders.

“With that we look at how to spot signs of symptoms how we can help someone of a first aid basis to provide support for them”.

The course also looks at how trainers can look after themselves and their own well-being.

“We also look at how we can embed mental health first aid in the work place which is a big issue right now and through that two day we also have bit of making sure you know how to look after your own well-being.

“If you don’t look after your own well-being then chances are you are not going to be in a fit state to provide support for someone else, so it’s important that we teach people to look after themselves as well.

“It’s about teaching you that from time to time, you should put yourself first to look after your own well-being because then if you do that you will be able to look after others without becoming ill”.

The course runs over two days, on March 28 and 29 at the Veterans Garage in Eccles.

For more information and to find out how to book visit the MHFA 999 website or contact Andy at andy@mhfa999.co.uk



Photographs by: MHFA 999 Facebook, used with permission.

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