Good News Series – Clive Stevenson, Trainer & Associate at Mental Health First Aid England Back to previous

Good News Series – Clive Stevenson, Trainer & Associate at Mental Health First Aid England

Author: Interviewed by Charlotte Wiseman


In celebration of World Mental Health Day, this month’s Good News Series hears from Clive Stevenson, working for Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England as a MHFA Instructor, National Trainer & Associate.

The Good News Series aims to inspire and promote well-being throughout the City of London and further afield, brought to you in collaboration between Aldgate Connect BID and Charlotte Wiseman Leadership & Wellbeing Consultants.

Charlotte interviews Clive, discussing the ability to make a difference through your work, his proudest initiatives, challenging stigma and changing mindsets and encouraging all to take part in the MHFA Course.

What do you love about working for Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England?
I love being able to make a difference. When I first became a mental health nurse several decades ago, it was so that I could make a difference, but the more I progressed in my career, the more I felt disconnected from the purpose of what it was I was doing. So, I jumped ship and started working with the Department of Health, and that is where Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) began in England way back in 2007. MHFA is a global movement and MHFA England is a Community Interest Company (CIC), shaped and driven by its community purpose, which is to improve the mental health of the population of England. Our goal is to train one in ten of the population in mental health skills. The organisation itself is highly transparent, effective and engaging. My roles at MHFA England mean I am able to contribute to developing courses, to be part of creating something really important, but I also train and support prospective MHFA instructors to deliver courses, as well as delivering those courses myself. MHFA is about much more than a suite of training products though, it’s a cause, it’s a movement, it’s a quest. It really is a privilege.

Tell us about an initiative that you are really proud of…
There are many really, I feel so proud that I have been involved with MHFA for so long, and it’s brilliant to be able to see the products we have created and witness the impact that those courses can have. MHFA courses are all rooted in evidence. They are the only courses of their kind in the country because of the depth of evidence and rigour that goes into their development and the degree to which they are tested and evaluated. Seeing that come to fruition, seeing how they touch people in a very real and positive sense, it really is delightful. 

One example in particular, is with a well-known law firm that I started working with around seven years ago. Within the legal sector, many senior lawyers would see resilience as being impenetrable, as if they were surrounded by titanium armour, so nothing could impact them. I see that as naivety, not resilience. Resilience is about learning to be vulnerable and understanding and valuing the growth that can come from that. During the course of our time working together, their view on resilience and of mental health has changed. The “This is Me” initiative was started by Barclays in 2013 and adopted by the City of London’s Lord Mayor’s Appeal in 2016. It allows colleagues to tell their personal stories, changing perceptions of mental health in the workplace and normalising poor mental health. This law firm created their own “This is Me” video of partners, lawyers and other colleagues talking about their experiences of poor mental health and the fact that those experiences do not define them. A launch event was held for the video, with hundreds of people in attendance. It was extremely moving, a really incredible experience, especially when those who featured in the video were given a standing ovation.

Challenging stigma and changing mindsets is not an easy task. What kind of challenges have you faced and how have you overcome these?
It can be a challenge to get across what we are about and why it’s important. Businesses need to understand that investing in mental health has so many benefits and positively impacts the financial bottom line. Recent research from Deloitte revealed that 28% of employees who left their job in 2020-21 cited poor mental health as the main reason. They also found that for every £1 spent on mental health interventions, employers could expect to receive £5.30 back in cost savings relating to absence, presenteeism and staff turnover. A Return on Investment of 530%.

Another challenge we face is that I often get asked, “How many Mental Health First Aiders shall we have?” And it’s not about that, it’s about creating a philosophy, a strategy, new ways of working, new conversations. Yes, of course, it’s about training, but only focussing on that and not looking at the bigger picture is a mistake.

Where do we start? Companies also struggle with figuring out where they currently are and where they need to be. When I get asked this, I always emphasise that ownership needs to come from the top level within the company and when you have everyone involved, that’s when you can start having the right conversations that form your strategy. It’s not about the number of training sessions that you have, but instead how the organisation as a whole empowers and supports everyone to make a difference on a long-term basis. It’s a layered approach, and it can be a challenge, but it’s also a pleasure. The first step is to start those conversations.

What three tips would you give to businesses looking to improve their commitment to ESG goals?

  1. You need top-level ownership and commitment. You need someone at the top saying ‘I want this, I need this, and we are going to do this’, and to follow that through. 
  2. You need communication and support, particularly at line management level, steering where you are going to go and feeding progress and any issues upward.
  3. You need people fully involved at the very heartbeat of the organisation, on the ‘shop floor’ if you like.

It’s a layered strategic approach, and it has to run throughout the whole organisation, and it’s more than just training.

What’s next on your radar? MHFA, exciting projects?
We’ve just redesigned and re-launched our instructor training to align with our new MHFA course, and that’s a six-day programme. I’ve delivered two of those so far and it’s great to be training and mentoring instructors who will then go on to make a real difference themselves to people and to their organisations.

We are also working on updating and redesigning our other courses, including Youth Mental Health First Aid. We have a suite of products that support those working with young people, whether they are teachers, youth workers, parents, anyone who is supporting young people up to the age of 18. The revised version of the full course should hopefully be launched early next year.

Following this, we will have a redeveloped Youth MHFA instructor programme and we will also be reworking the MHFA One-Day workplace Champion course. We’re continually developing and redeveloping, and it’s an absolute joy to be part of that!

Anything to share?
Yes! If you’re an individual, get yourself on an MHFA England course! It really is life-changing, it changes your perceptions and your ability to look after yourself, and when you start to truly hear others and support others, you too can make a difference to people. And if you’re an organisation, talk to Charlotte!

We hope you found this edition of Good News Series inspiring, and learned a bit more about the amazing work that Clive and MHFA England are doing. 

You can find out more about MHFA England by visiting their website, or by getting in touch with Clive via LinkedIn. If your organisation would like to find out more about Charlotte’s business MHFA training, you can do so by visiting their website.

Want to be featured on the Good News Series? Get in touch with BID Director, Zoe Barwick by LinkedIn or by email.

About Clive Stevenson:
Clive Stevenson is a mental health nursing professional who has spent many decades working in mental health including being the director of nursing services at a major NHS trust. Clive began working with the Department of Health almost twenty years ago. He has been involved with Mental Health First Aid England from the very beginning and takes pride in being able to make a difference in people’s lives.

About Mental Health First Aid England:
Mental Health First Aid England is a social enterprise with a vision to improve the mental health of the nation. It provides evidence-based training to give people the tools to support themselves and each other, so everyone can talk and seek help when needed. Over the last decade, MFHA has provided expert consultancy and training to over 20,000 workplaces. 

About Aldgate Connect BID:
Aldgate Connect is a Business Improvement District (BID) set up in April 2020, raising £3.9 million over 5 years being invested back into the local area. With a vast array of cultures, businesses and places to enjoy, it makes this area one of the most diverse and exciting places to be, work, visit and live. Together with the local authority partners, (City of London Corporation and London Borough of Tower Hamlets) and other key stakeholders, the BID works with the businesses and community to enhance it as a destination for all. Inspiration and inclusivity are at the heart of the BID’s ambitions – working on programmes and projects that make it a more appealing, welcoming, stronger and safer area.

About Charlotte Wiseman Leadership & Wellbeing Consultants:
An international consultancy that supports companies to apply positive psychology in the workplace helping people to think, feel and perform their best, and businesses to improve engagement, performance and retention. Drawing on over 35 years of empirical research, global experience and a unique methodology, their work focuses on two main areas; leadership development & employee wellbeing so everyone can optimise their mental fitness, enjoying better results and greater workplace satisfaction.