Backup launches a free Mental Health First Aider course

Backup – The Technical Entertainment Charity Chair discusses the offer to provide free Mental Health First Aider courses.

Could you tell us a little bit about Backup’s free Mental Health First Aider course?

“Unusual Rigging has provided funds to enable up to 100 free places for training Mental Health First Aiders in memory of Alan ‘AJ’ Jacobi. It is, at the moment, for any freelancer who has been in the industry for five years. The MHFA-certified course, provided by Music Support, includes four, four-hour sessions with up to 10 participants looking at the various aspects of despair, addiction, burnout, anguish, irritable behaviour, physical exhaustion and avoidance. Once these are identified, it then needs training to open up conversations and identify how to progress these into support and guidance to enable someone to obtain help.”

What was the idea behind this incentive?

“AJ was a Trustee of Backup and was a strong supporter in helping those who found themselves in a dark place. His family and Unusual Rigging wanted to do something to further his concern of others and has funded these courses in his memory.”

“Our aim is to train enough people so that in every 20 crew, there will be at least one Mental Health First Aider. This can only enhance the wellbeing of the production and crew and lead to less isolation.”

“Music Support has been providing these courses for many years and they are geared towards the support of those in the entertainment industry rather than general commercial organisations.”

Why are these courses so important?

“Freelance technicians, particularly in the touring world of entertainment, endure many stresses including being away from their family and friends, isolation, strained relationships, poor diet, few personal breaks, long physical hours up to 14 hours a day, trouble sleeping, financial insecurity – when’s the next job? – burnout, addiction, suicidal ideation and little or no plan for life after touring. Most of us are not good at asking for help – except where technical fit ups or get outs require more than one pair of hands – and even worse at asking others if they need help. Trained mental health first aiders will be open to asking where they feel that someone is behaving in a despairing way and maybe help to support and guide to where help is available.”

How many people have signed up?

“Around 20 have signed up so far with the course now starting November, as the production delegation for COP26 used the slot with Music Support in October. This was a separate course and not part of the AJ bursary.”

How do you take part in the incentive?

“There are 100 course places available over the next 12 months and people can sign up at:”

This article originally appeared in issue #266 of TPi, which you can read here.