November 2

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Supporting the ‘Supporters’ at Work

“What about supervision and self-care for Peer Supporters and Mental Health First Aiders?” Are your ‘supporters’ active and prepared to deliver their role in the current context?


Support for Mental Health First Aiders at Work

More organisation are turning to Peer Support Programs (PSPs) or Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training as part of their response to develop mentally healthy workplaces. Indeed, these programs can help to reduce stigma and normalise stress, so that people at work are more likely to seek suitable help when needed.

We know that anyone in a management, HR, WH&S, Wellbeing or People and Culture role, often play the part of ‘supporters’ when it comes to wellbeing (even if not trained in peer support or MHFA).

What support is there for the ‘supporter’?

In some cases, supporters (Peer Supporters, Mental Health First Aiders) are provided one-off training or refresher training every few years, but left to their own devices in between. A LOT CAN HAPPEN IN A YEAR. Some ‘supporters’ may loose confidence and others become inactive. We would recommend at least a yearly or twice-yearly check-in program.

We would ask these questions of an organisation who wants to support their supporters:

  • How often is refresher training conducted, and is this enough?
  • Are your supporters feeling supported and looking after their own self-care?
  • How active is the peer/supporter network and how do you know if it’s working?
  • Are your supporters feeling prepared to provide their role in the context of ‘working from home’, COVID restrictions and change?
  • Are your supporters prepared to respond neutrally and empathically to different opinions about COVID, vaccine beliefs and vaccine status (just to mention some current hot topics in the workplace)
  • What do your supporters need to help them full the role?

Naturally, these questions come easily and can be answered if an organisation’s program engaged in regular consultation and continuous improvement mechanisms. However, it might be a good time to provide something focused on checking-in with your supporters.

Resilience and Self-Care Sessions for ‘Supporters’

Beyond providing some refresher training and Q&A materials for specific hot spots and reminding people to access Employee Assistance counselling, we recommend providing group supervisions sessions for supporters with a focus on their self-care and resilience.

Running small groups (up to 12), facilitated by a qualified and experienced mental health professional, can help to build the environment where people can talk openly about how things are really going for them and what they may need.

When facilitating group sessions, we ask these sorts of things:

  • What has the role of supporter been like for you these past months?
  • What have you learned about yourself and others as a result of the role?
  • What’s been going well?
  • What scenarios would you like to discuss and gain feedback on (eg role boundaries, conflicts of interest, empathy fatigue)
  • How are things going with ‘starting certain conversations’ about mental health and COVID-19 impacts?
  • What Peer Support or Mental Health First Aid skills and values are you engaging in the role and what would you like more advice on?
  • What sorts of self-care strategies do you have in place, or need to have in place?
  • What, if anything, do you need to support you?

These questions embody a process of self-reflection, positive-psychology and learning, through discussion and peer-support. The facilitator can provide input, tips and strategies related to the role, mental wellbeing and self-care along the way.

Positive Feedback

We’ve conducted similar types of sessions with HR/WH&S teams and groups of leaders who have undergone mental health leadership training (from supervisor to executive level) and the feedback is pretty positive and consistent.

Participants will say things like:

  • It was really good to talk with peers about how things are going
  • It’s great to hear other people’s experience and to feel normal
  • That’s the only refresher I’ve had since I was trained
  • I’ve refreshed some of the key concepts of the supporter role
  • I know what I need to do for self care
  • I think I need to slow down and just listen a little more
  • It was really useful to have this quality time to talk about the role and prepare for current context scenarios
  • I’m glad the organisation arranged this, it shows they care about us and this role

Who can help?

Help is nearby and easy to arrange. Companies like YES Psychology who have experience in Peer Support, employee wellbeing and group supervision can provide an engaging and safe environment for your supporters. Also you could contact the providers of your Peer Support, Mental Health First Aid or the Employee Assistance Programs.


Contact YES with any questions you may have.


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