Can you imagine how naive I sounded when I said this?

It was during a training course a few years ago and the discussion got around to health history questionnaires. We …as Pilates Teachers …were asked if we included any questions around mental health in our forms. The short answer was no. It turns out we were showing an acute lack of Mental health awareness.

It was when I uttered the ridiculous words “In the last fifteen years, I’ve not worked with any clients with mental ill health” that the penny dropped.  Our lecturer corrected me to say “Ah! What you really mean is that over the last fifteen years, none of your clients have told you they have a mental illness.” “Did you ever ask them?”

It was a sobering moment for me. I remember feeling a bit foolish. How could I even say those words? At that point in time I was totally unaware of these statistics. According to the Mental Health Charity MIND:

  • One adult in six experiences a common mental health problem every week
  • One child in ten has a diagnosable mental health condition
  • Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in the UK,with approximately 8% of the population meeting the criteria for diagnosis.
  • 6% of people have a diagnosis of generalised anxiety disorder and over 4% with post-traumatic stress disorder.

We don’t know what we don’t know.

These stats were particularly relevant to me. In my working life the majority of my personal training clients or Pilates class members were female.  I now know that women are much more likely to have a common mental illness than men. That one in five women have reported having a mental health problem, compared with one in eight men.

Plus, females are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. With hindsight, I quite obviously must have had a number of clients with a mental illness …I was simply unaware.

Time to change

I made it my business after that day to become more informed and have recently achieved what I consider one of my most useful qualifications, namely the Level 2 Award in Mental Health Awareness/Mental Health First Aid.

Just to be clear.

My new qualification has not turned me into an expert on this massive subject.

What it means is that I am now much more aware of some of the signs of the most common illnesses.

It does not mean that I am suddenly qualified to diagnose or treat a person with a mental illness. Far from it.

What have I learned?

Apart from anything else …I am much more conscious of my language given the stigma and discrimination that words can cause.

According to the mental health charity, TIME TO CHANGE, “Mental health stigma makes it more likely that people with mental health problems will be singled out, or labelled as different, dangerous or strange.”

I reckon one of the most important things I now know is that I am not responsible for another person but I can hopefully provide some initial help to somebody experiencing mental ill health.

I might know how to support them. In the same way I might be able to help a person who has cut themselves, is choking or needing CPR.

Knowing when to escalate a situation when a person may be at risk of harm to themselves or others is priceless and could save a life.

In the fitness industry in particular, we are all encouraged to obtain a First Aid Certificate and to learn some basic first aid techniques including CPR …if we all took the time to raise our mental health awareness and learned some mental health first aid …we’d be able to help so many people.

Do you ever worry or wonder about the mental health of the clients that you’re working with? Maybe it is a work colleague or family member …or you …yourself?

Wouldn’t you like to be a little bit more confident on this subject and have more mental health awareness?

If you’d like to find out more about our Level 2 Award in Mental Health Awareness qualification and if you would be a suitable candidate there is more info here 

Useful websites

www.mind.org.uk; www.samaritans.org; www.time-to-change.org.uk