RGU student Bartek from the Law School is volunteering as an Advisor at the Grampian Community Law Centre, where he provides free legal services to members of the community. To better support his clients, he decided to complete a two-day training in First Aid Mental Health.
Can you tell us more about what you are studying at RGU?
I started the diploma because I’m hoping to become a solicitor in the future. So far, the course has been good in terms of practical experience, but very intense. I suppose that’s just what life is like for a solicitor!
Since I started the course, I’ve picked up on a few areas that I have developed an interest in. It’s good to experience a more practical side of what the profession is like because my LLB was more theoretical.
What do you do as a Volunteer Advisor at the Grampian Community Law Centre, and why did you decide to get involved?
I joined the Law Clinic in my third year, which has since turned into the Grampian Community Law Centre (GCLC). I just really wanted some work experience because I had been shadowing at a Law firm on two occasions and was keen to build on that experience. It was also a good opportunity to meet other people as well, as a side benefit!
But mainly, I wanted to be part of something while I was at university. In my first two years of the LLB course, I was a bit weary of joining anything because I wasn’t sure if I could manage balancing my studies with extra-curricular activities. But in my third year I decided to try and I don’t regret it.
In my role as a Volunteer Advisor, I work on different cases. Generally speaking, I’m there to offer advice to any clients who are seeking free legal services, or help in any way I can with a case as it is a team effort. There is usually two students working on a case with Hannah Darnell, GCLC Manager and RGU Lecturer, supervising us. She’s always checking if everything’s going smoothly.
I also attend a lot of training sessions as part of my role. Those are usually weekly on a Thursday. Hannah will get a professional on Teams to go over some areas of Law practice. For example, our most recent one was on Civil Litigation.
Can you tell us more about the First Aid Mental Health training?
Hannah sent a message on Teams at the end of the summer break to ask if anyone was interested in going through a First Aid Mental Health training. A few people, including me, decided to volunteer. It took place over two days during Pause and Reflect Week.
I was interested in taking part because when I saw “First Aid” in the training name, I immediately thought about CPR and that kind of things. But then seeing “Mental Health” after it made me really curious to see what it would be about.
When we started the training, I think we all had some rudimentary understanding of mental health, which we were able to build on and enhance our knowledge of things we thought were common sense, but really aren’t. It helped putting into practice what we knew and also what we were learning during these two days. For example, how to discuss mental health with other people, or what kind of symptoms to watch out for.
And obviously, the key thing is, we’re not mental health professionals, so we learned about how to help someone like a client go through an initial phase with us before signposting them towards professional help, such as a GP or an organisation like Samaritans.
Our Training Coordinator Ross Leven, from ResLife, was really good at getting us to interact. He was asking a lot of questions to make us think about what we were learning.
At the end of the training, we had a written assessment as well as a roleplay one to see what we would do if a client came to us showing signs of mental health problems. And then, we received our certificate!
How will the training help in your current role and future career?
Firstly, the training will help me even in my private life. Mental health problems are not uncommon so it’s good to know that I will be able to help if someone I know is going through something.
In terms of my work at the GCLC, it will help me communicate with clients in the right way. Before the training I might have heard them out and asked them to reach out for help but now I actually know what to say and who to signpost them to depending on their needs. Without the training, my advice would have been more generic and probably less helpful in the long run because I wouldn’t know specifically what would help.
As I mentioned before, we all have some understanding of mental health issues as this is a way less taboo subject than it was even only 20 years ago. So it would have been a shame not being able to develop this knowledge further. Especially because the training was quick and easily accessible. It will be good to be able to put this new knowledge into use in my career when the time comes.
You can learn more about how the First Aid Mental Health Training came to life and how it aims to support students and their career by reading Hannah Darnell’s article on RGView.