November 22, 2022
5 minutes

Mental health: when HRDs train in "first aid

How to help a victim of an anxiety attack? What are the weak signals of depression? More and more HRDs are being trained to better understand the ill-being of some of their employees, while in France, one person in four is affected by a mental disorder during his or her life.

Mental health: when HRDs train in "first aid

Mental health, the psychological distress of employees

Covid-19, war in Ukraine, galloping inflation or climate change, there is no shortage of reasons for employee blues. One executive out of four feels that his or her mental health has deteriorated over the last two years, according to a study by Apec, the Association for the Employment of Executives, published this month.

At work, more than half report feeling overloaded (55%), burned out (54%) or under intense stress (54%), and 19% have had to take time off work or sick leave due to burnout.

These difficulties are felt more frequently by managers: 65% have the feeling of an insurmountable workload (versus 47% for non-managers) and 62% have a feeling of professional exhaustion (versus 48% for non-managers).

Finally, the level of stress is perceived as intense for 64% of managers (versus 48% for non-managers).

Executives look to their colleagues first

Even if they consider their managers vigilant on the subject (57%), executives would turn first to their colleagues (60%) to share their psychological difficulties (stress, isolation, depression, exhaustion), notes Apec.

Faced with these numbers, more and more human resources professionals are taking training to learn mental health first aid. 

How to help a victim of an anxiety attack? What are the weak signals to detect depression? How to help a person suffering from a panic attack? These various issues are addressed during these mental health rescue trainings. 

"Giving a glass of water, a handkerchief, all this is reassuring" for a person in the grip of a psychological crisis, says Agnès Ducré-Sie, a mental health trainer who gives intensive workshops to groups of about 15 people, the vast majority of them women.

"We always think about physical help, helping someone who has fallen (...) but we don't necessarily think about people who are not well in their mind", says Laurence Roux-Fouillet, sophrologist, who followed the training on the advice of a colleague.

Trivializing mental health issues through education

She believes that more mental health awareness will help make mental disorders "something completely commonplace" when they still suffer from stigma.

The trainees express their fear of being too intrusive, but the training allows them, according to the trainer, Agnès Ducré-Sie, to determine the best way to intervene, without interference.

Young people are particularly affected

In France, one person out of four is affected, at least once in his life, by a mental disorder.

However, as Ms. Ducré-Sie observes, "We realized with the Covid crisis that there were mental health problems in France, and that had an accelerating effect.

Despite this, the situation remains "alarming" among young people, but not only. "The entire population is affected, we have lived through a summer of hell with environmental stress," to which we can add the war in Ukraine. There is an "emergency" to train and respond to these problems, insists the trainer.

Between theoretical explanations, tests and role-playing, the trainees are made aware of the different mental disorders and the ways to respond to them: anxiety, psychotic disorders or suicide prevention.

When the topic of mass trauma - such as terrorist attacks - is brought up in training, questions come up: "Are fires, storms, part of it?" as an echo of the eco-anxiety in the population.

Goal: 750,000 trained mental health first responders by 2028.

While training in physical health first aid is widespread, the association"First Aid in Mental Health" (PSSM) only began providing training in France in 2019, ten years after Australia, a pioneer in this field.

Nearly 30,000 first aiders have already been trained, with sessions offered throughout France, but the association wants to accelerate the movement, with the aim of extending it to 750,000 people by 2028.

Three tips to reduce the risk of burn-out with Aurélie Mora, psychologist at

Students, social workers, building janitors or HR

The increased knowledge of mental health is making things happen, according to Ms. Ducré-Sie, who assures that the demand for training is only increasing. "At the beginning, we had an audience of convinced, then in 2021 professionals (...) of social action or health, students, and now, it irrigates more and more". 

In particular, building guards have taken the training, as have the human resources managers of some companies.

Orane, a psychology student, was also present because "it's a civic gesture", according to her.

However, there is still one obstacle: financing. The training, open to all volunteers, costs 250 euros.

At the end of these two days, the first-aid workers receive a diploma. But "we are not here to save the world", only to bring "a little more well-being", smiles Noémie Rakotobe, specialized educator.

Edmée Citroën

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