The Psychosocial and Mental Health Team (the PMHT) has a longstanding and growing influence within the British Red Cross in building mental health and psychosocial capacities, including psychological first aid skills, across operational services as well as within the wider organization. In November 2020, The British Red Cross signed the above Open Pledge to strengthen its commitment to enhancing MHPSS capacities, and within this PFA skillsets, throughout its workforce according to role and situation.
At the core of the PMHT’s offer is its psychosocial framework known as CALMER (Consider, Acknowledge, Listen, Manage, Enable, Resource). PFA sits firmly within this framework as it enables the capacity and competence of individuals both to respond to others in distress as well as protect individual wellbeing and resilience. In all aspects of PMHT activity CALMER, and as a result of this psychological first aid, features at all levels of service delivery.
The Pledge outlines a call to action for National Societies who have signed their commitment. The PMHT has taken the following actions (which it will refer to throughout this report) on the following domains:
1. Advocating for the attention to MHPSS and PFA in humanitarian response, including the importance of PFA capacity and attention to the protection and wellbeing of staff and volunteers in relevant policy forums
2. Ensure all workforce are trained in PFA as relevant to their situation, sector and role
3. Training of community members, in communities at risk, in psychological first aid as relevant to their situation
4. Strengthen existing or build new systems for developing PFA skills and capacities, and provide mentoring and supervision, at a local level.
The PMHT has been building its commitment to the pledge by:
Offering Mental Health and Psychosocial Support to Frontline Teams (2, 4)
The PMHT consists of a team of highly skilled psychosocial practitioners, senior practitioners and trainers. Frontline operational teams receive regular support from practitioners in the form of:
– Group and individual clinical supervision and reflective practice sessions – mentoring and supervision provided at a local level. These sessions are designed to support teams to strengthen thematic skills and confidence when supporting those in distress, as well as to consider individual and team resilience. In 2021, the PMHT was able to provide more opportunities for frontline teams to participate in this support by increasing groups and reducing 1:1s. It also exceeded the target for the number of days this support (service visits) were delivered.
Further mentoring and supervision is provided when the PMHT engages in critical and/or major incident responses, either directly alongside frontline responders, or through joint consultation, where practitioners co-deliver support alongside caseworkers with those experiencing acute distress or mental illness. In 2021, the team responded to:
– 10 critical incidents supporting 12 people
– 2 major incidents supporting 49 people
– 12 joint casework sessions
Training and Peer Support (1, 2, 4)
There are multiple ways in which psychological first aid and other MHPSS capacities are threaded across the BRC workforce and external partners:
– It has been well-researched that social support is one of the best ways to reduce stress and build resilience within teams. In this spirit, the PMHT has been training and supporting a growing number of peer supporters; 77 internally and 63 externally. Peer supporters play a decisive role in providing a first response to colleagues who are struggling or have experienced a difficult event through defusing, empathetic listening and agreeing what is mutually beneficial for individuals and teams
– Another central activity is the delivery of a range of workshops, which are semi-structured and provide teams the space to learn new PFA and other MHPSS skills and also share good practice. Workshops cover a number of themes, such as: Understanding Trauma, Mental Health Awareness, Suicide Awareness, Grief and Loss, as well as Trauma Informed Approaches.
In 2021, 158 workshops were delivered, providing 1909 spaces for learning. In all domains, the workshops demonstrated significant skills development:
Guidance and Additional Resources (1, 2, 3, 4)
The PMHT firmly believes that everyone should have the appropriate level of mental health and psychosocial skills to support those who are struggling. Within the British Red Cross, we have developed 21 procedures and guidance to inform good practice across the organisation and have also signed the Movement’s Pledge to provide psychosocial and mental health capabilities as appropriate to individual roles.
Since 2020, the PMHT has been bolstering the development of PFA skills and capacities for all BRC workforce. Through this, the PMHT increased psychosocial support training through the general workforce (staff and volunteer) induction. ‘Supporting Yourself and Others’, the core CALMER skills course, became mandatory for all frontline operational teams. Psychosocial support training was also increased in mandatory e-learning inductions for all BRC staff and volunteers.
To further its vision of a more psychosocially-informed community, the PMHT built upon its media presence to include 10 videos and 3 TikToks, which collectively have had 80,960 views.
It also launched its first ever website https://www.redcross.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/psychosocial-support including an introductory public training on giving basic psychosocial support: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqCHWV3Swuc91dPc_mzWHJjr1tqfH5Aly
In addition to training community members in PFA skills, the PMHT has been working more closely with the British Red Cross’s Community Education Team to develop a range of training and resources for communities at risk – such as resource kits for teachers to support children returning to school during COVID19, materials on supporting young people to talk about difficult feelings, outreach booklets to help those struggling with loneliness and isolation, as well as training on wellbeing and resilience.
Advocacy and Influencing (1)
The British Red Cross is active nationally and internationally in advocating for the attention to MHPSS and PFA in humanitarian responses, for example by co-chairing the Priority Action Area One Working Group of the Moment Roadmap and co-chairing the IFRC’s MHPSS Research Network; contributing to the Moment State of Play event in December, 2021 about our learnings (including the challenges) in integrating MHPSS and in contributing to research and policy about the importance of MHPSS in humanitarian responses. We also advocate for the importance of PFA capacity nationally and internationally, and call attention to the protection and wellbeing of staff and volunteers in relevant policy forums across the UK (including raising awareness of the importance of trauma informed approaches).
The Psychosocial and Mental Health Team, as well as the wider British Red Cross, will continue to strengthen its commitment to threading PFA and wider MPHSS capacities both within its own workforce as well as wider communities and like-minded organisations.
The PMHT has a strong, continuing track record of achieving results and making an impact. Through the cultivation of a highly-skilled and expanding team of professionals and partners, the PMHT’s capacity and scope is positioned to reach further, to provide psychosocial and mental health resources where these are most needed.
Implementation is not completed: An explanation, and a description of the challenges encountered
Whilst the Psychosocial and Mental Health Team have taken multiple actions to strengthen PFA and other MHPSS capacities and skillsets – we see the fulfilment of this Pledge as an ongoing process and impetus for our team to strive to prevent mental ill health and promote mental health by promoting and embedding of psychosocial and mental health resources and services.