Meet our Mental Health First Aiders

This week we chat to Emma Harnett…

Primary Care Nurse Tutor Emma Harnett is passionate about putting the issue of mental health at the top of the agenda.

Having joined the CCG as a general practice nurse clinical tutor four years ago, Emma is also a Macmillan Primary Care Nurse Facilitator and has more than 30 years’ experience as a nurse to her name.

Her role involves working with nurses and healthcare assistants across west Essex and as a result she is hoping the Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) scheme will be widely shared across all areas.

“I have been offering pastoral support to the nursing workforce, especially during the pandemic, and feel passionate about the support that is offered to our CCG staff but in addition our colleagues in primary care.

“The MHFA training has been offered to our primary care colleagues, and I’m hoping that this can therefore reach all members of the wider workforce.

“In addition as part of the Workforce team we have been running wellbeing sessions, how to relax and how to sleep better provided by local IAPT teams.

“Having been a nurse for over 30 years, I have always been passionate about supporting patients and delivering evidenced based care.

“However in my current roles the focus has shifted and it is vitally important that those who are delivering care and the wider CCG workforce have the support they require in times of need.

“So signing up to be a Mental Health First Aider did feel like a natural step from there,’’ Emma explains.

“I am passionate about addressing mental health issues and this fits in with my role too.

“I think my natural instinct is to try and offer care and support; whether that is patients, colleagues, friends or family.”

She is one of six staff members who put themselves forward to undertake specialist training for the role, to help colleagues who may be suffering from psychological problems or poor mental health.

Introducing the first-aiders is part of our pledge to Time to Change, addressing the issue of mental health problems, helping to offer support and signpost where help can be accessed.

Emma is in no doubt the coronavirus pandemic has put added pressures on to everyone.

Her own recent life-changing illness has also given her a major insight into how life can throw us major challenges – and how vital support and care from others is when that happens.

Emma had only just returned to work having just recovered for a year long convalescence, when COVID-19 began to take hold.

“Things like that change you completely, mentally and physically but I do think what I have been through has made me want to help other people even more,” said Emma.

She explains her return to work was difficult and at first it was a struggle, but feels her inner strength and resilience has carried her through.

“In the midst of the pandemic, initially, the fact I was not in a patient facing role and could not directly help the workforce was a real challenge to me, but everyone has a part to play and by helping others and supporting them to manage those stressful situations was really important.”

Emma credits regular mindfulness and yoga sessions as having helped her through the past couple of years.

“I try to do those a couple of times a week if I can, with regular exercise and a good diet.”

Emma’s life changing and life threatening illness helped her gain perspective and able to cope better with the newly acquired skills and tools, but she credits the support from other organisations and counselling to really help turn things around.

“I believe it is so important to have a positive mental attitude, to keep going.

“However it is ok not to be ok, albeit it’s important to recognise when you need help and where to go for support.”

Emma is now also involved in the One Step at a Time project, through her Macmillan role which represents the patients voice on what it feels like to be diagnosed with cancer.

“I really want to help support others who might be going through that or any kind of difficulties.

“Sometimes just giving people the support they need is all it takes.”

You can get in touch with any of the six Mental Health First Aiders at any time, confidentially – it does not have to be the person working within your department.

You can email Emma, Jacquie Clements, Steff Monk, Anita Root, Naomi Hunt and Sarah Gascoigne directly at any time for support.

Related articles

Meet our Mental Health First Aiders – 16 March 2021
Nurse Anita Root talks about why she signed up.

Your mental health first aiders are here for you – 25 February 2021
The CCG appoints its first group of certified Mental Health First Aiders.

Help break the silence around mental health – 7 October 2020
The CCG makes a pledge to an organisation called Time to Change, to break and end the stigma around mental health in the workplace.

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