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First on the scene, last to get support

World Mental Health Day 2017 looks at the care needed for first responders in crisis situations
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
UK-based change-development architect Michael Hamilton, left, and his colleague Dr Yansie Rolston are here to provide guidance on mental health for first responders.

“Too often, our first response to people with mental health challenges or mental health distress is predicated by our own belief systems built on the myths, stigma, and discrimination that permeates society.”So says UK-based international consultant in leadership, coaching and change-development architect, Michael Hamilton, who is in T&T as part of this year’s World Mental Health Day (WMHD) 2017 observations.

Hamilton comes to T&T having successfully implemented management, personal development and leadership programmes in Europe, Africa, South America, the Caribbean and Asia.

Of his over 30 years coaching, counselling, youth work, and community development and more than 20 years as a public health practitioner, Hamilton says, “My travels for training and leadership so far have covered about one-third of the world.”

Among his experience, he has been a University of London lecturer on Youth & Community Work. The British Medical Journal has published his work into how to engage the community in understanding and taking responsibility for HIV, You can’t tell by looking, along with other projects.

It is exactly his extensive work and successes as a change developer/agent that brought him to T&T on the summoning of his colleague Dr Yansie Rolston. Rolston has been working within T&T’s disability and mental health community for over six years.

Hamilton is here as a response to two years of intense work that Rolston and local associates, which include the likes of The UWI Prof Gerard Hutchinson, have done with stakeholders to find a culturally-sensitive solution to responding to people in, or developing, a mental health crisis.

Following last year’s WHMD theme—Mental health first aid—the conviction deepened to offer a change solution that would empower anyone in society to respond positively and confidently to another person or to one’s own mental health distress.

Hamilton conceived the programme Mental Health First Response (MHFR) Leadership Training and Coaching which will be offered in T&T starting in November. MHFR leadership training begins as workplace intervention but it is designed for every person committed to becoming proficient in mental health leadership.

And by pure coincidence, the World Federation for Mental Health declared that for 2017 the theme for today’s observations is Mental Health in the Workplace.

A fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), Hamilton comes here to offer first response expertise fresh off interventions at the Grenfell Towers fire in West London. This unprecedented fire accounted for the death of 69 people last June causing widespread trauma among residents and first responders. Both Hamilton and Rolston have worked at various levels of intervention at a strategic, mezzo, and micro-level.
In addition to providing counselling and therapy to survivors and residents immediately after the tragedy, Hamilton and Rolston have been mapping and auditing the responses to the emotional and mental health needs, identifying shortcomings, signposting to services, and supporting the development of voluntary groups and NGOs to address the identified gaps.

On First Response leadershipHamilton says, “This internationally-accredited Mental Health First Response Leadership course provides participants and their organisations with a high level of competence in recognising, identifying, and responding to mental health situations.”

He is confident that the knowledge and skills acquired will make anyone graduating from the training adequately “proficient to offer help to children, young people and adults who may be developing a mental health disorder or who may be experiencing a crisis.”

MHFR is culturally-appropriate to mental health in the Caribbean, while providing an overview of the global context. Participation in this training, Hamilton says, is a “step towards taking ownership, making a commitment, and embracing responsibility in preparing yourself and your workforce to effectively lead on responses to people who present with need.”

The Mental Health First Response Leadership training is a four-day programme with an alternative option of a two-day programme specifically for healthcare professionals.
Training is expected to:

• Increase awareness and understanding of mental health and mental well being
• Explore disparities in attitudes to mental health
• Understand stigma and the importance of language
• Offer a supportive sensitive intervention
• Be aware of services and how to direct people to them (signposting)
• Build participant’s emotional resilience

Hamilton has also built a one-day coaching workshop into this programme providing “guidance on how to ask the right questions and support others, in keeping with occupational standards of competence for certified MH First Response Leaders.”

He has also used his international experience to secure accreditation for this programme with the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) – City & Guilds. Programme enrolment secures membership to ILM and gaining access to a numerous leadership resources.

On men and mental healthThe question of men and their response to mental health is one that regularly came up in discussions. This was first raised as a concern for his approach to encouraging buy-in, given that organisations, which must institute mental health leadership are led mainly by men who historically have not been known to practice appropriate health-seeking behaviours.

Hamilton is confident that the diversity of his work “belies its one simple purpose, which is to create spaces where people, organisations and communities can make change.” And in that spirit he immediately initiated and began to actively pursue a forum specifically designed for men.

He went on to say that “most of the models of healthcare and change interventions are designed for women” and that part of his work is “to constantly build models that provide a safe space for men to express themselves.”

So, in addition to his leadership and coaching work beginning in November, Hamilton has undertaken to host a “Man Talk” forum as a starting point to opening the conversation to developing appropriate strategies and interventions for men in T&T.

Hamilton says he brings to T&T what he has offered many other countries “expertise and post-graduate qualifications in coaching, counselling and solution-focused talking” and the promise to “work with you to find exactly what you need to take you where you want to go.”

“I bring to each assignment a unique fusion of experience, practice, theory and creativity,” he says, with his usual ease and affable manner.

And in this his first stay in T&T, this son of Jamaica parents was introduced to the fusion-of-food experience at the Queen’s Park Savannah. He now adds to his international experience, Doubles “which are quite good”, pholourie “which were just too much” – he had two, and souse “that was just too bitter.”

Information on registration, training dates and venues for Mental Health First Response Leadership Training & Coaching can be found on the Facebook group CreateBetterMinds.


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