Instructor Spotlight – Advance Brighter Futures

“We’re proud to deliver MHFA and help our wider community become more mental health aware.” 

At Mental Health First Aid Wales (MHFAW), we work with lots of different individuals and organisations to train people as Mental Health First Aiders and raise awareness on the importance of having trained Mental Health First Aiders within the workplace and communities. 

One of these organisations is Advance Brighter Futures (ABF), a dedicated mental health charity in Wrexham who now have a team of trained Mental Health First Aiders thanks to their training with MHFAW. We spoke with Zoe Whitehead, a Business Development Officer and trained Mental Health First Aider, to talk about the work ABF does and how their Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training has impacted their organisation and local community.  

MHFAW: Tell us who ABF are and what you do. 

Zoe: We’re ABF, a small, community-based mental health and wellbeing charity supporting people in Wrexham and the surrounding areas. Established in 1992, ABF is a safe space for anyone experiencing poor mental health, and a place where you will be believed in and empowered to embrace a brighter future.  

When it comes to mental health, we know there is no magic wand. But we listen to, care about, and believe in people, with their voices and needs at the heart of everything we do.  

We provide specialist mental health services to hundreds of people every year who are experiencing mental health difficulties, from low level interventions to supporting those experiencing and enduring severe mental distress. Our services include one-to-one talking therapy, parent support groups, one-to-one coaching, wellbeing group activities, MHFA and Suicide Awareness training, and so much more.  

We’re a team of passionate, caring people; it’s not often that you see the Chief Officer delivering Suicide Awareness training to the community, ‘back-office’ staff on first name terms with people receiving support, or even see the Chairperson of a charity up a ladder getting stuck in with building maintenance, but that’s exactly what you’d find at ABF.   

MHFAW: Why did ABF need MHFA training/instructors? 

Zoe: ABF’s vision is to ‘ensure that no person experiencing poor mental health ever feels like they’re on their own’. We want to help and support as many people as possible, and delivering MHFA is helping us do just that. We deliver MHFA to the wider community, including staff and volunteers from local organisations working in person-facing support roles, and teams working in local businesses who want to do more to support their staff’s mental health. We’re proud to deliver MHFA and help our wider community become more mental health aware. 

MHFAW: How does MHFA relate to the work you do at ABF? 

Zoe: We’ve been supporting people with their mental health for over 30 years, this not only means that we have an abundance of first-hand knowledge of current trends and the challenges that our local communities face, but it also means that we can add our experience to our delivery of MHFA, enhancing the course even further for our participants.  

MHFAW: What impact has the MHFA training had for you individually/as a team? 

Zoe: We’re able to train each member of staff, volunteer, and student placement in MHFA in-house, helping us to ensure our whole team is trained to ABF’s high standards.  

As a not-for-profit, any income generated from selling our MHFA course is invested straight back into the charity, helping us to be more sustainable and allowing us to continue the work we’re doing to support our community with their mental health and wellbeing.  

MHFAW: Would you recommend training as a Mental Health First Aider to others? 

Zoe: The skills taught in MHFA are for anyone and everyone, no matter who you are or where you work. The skills taught on the course can be life-saving and are not only useful for those in a supporting or caring role, but for family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours.  

MHFAW: In your opinion, what is the most impactful part of the course? 

Zoe: The hardest part of supporting someone who is in a mental health crisis can be knowing the ‘right thing’ to say. Learning to use the ALGEE action plan has been very impactful in helping to overcome this challenge. The memorable acronym gives participants a structure for those, sometimes difficult, conversations and allow them to draw upon real-life scenarios, giving people the confidence to support others in their time of need.  

For the course instructors, the most impactful part of the course is learning from the attendees. Each course we deliver, there is something new to be learnt and we love hearing of the different experiences and thoughts around mental health from our participants.   

MHFAW: What’s the most positive story/experience you’ve had through delivering training? 

Zoe: We’re proud of our partnerships with local businesses and being able to support them in creating more mental health-aware teams, empowering their staff to support each other.  

A recent testimonial we received explains how a local business now has a whole team of Mental Health First Aiders, who are pro-active in their roles: 

“I initially set up the MHFA team partly due to the increase in numbers of mental health issues due to the pandemic. The team continues to grow and have been very pro-active in using their skills to help numerous colleagues, setting up drop-in sessions and helping to organise and run a mental health awareness day which we are planning to run annually.” 

MHFAW: How impactful has your MHFA training been for your wider community? 

Zoe: It’s such a delight knowing we’re having such a big impact on our wider community, especially when we think about the number of participants that we train on our MHFA courses, and in turn, how many people they all individually support with the skills they have learnt.  

We have trained staff across a range of local organisations including the council, domestic abuse support services, youth projects, homelessness support services, and even the Wales-wide mental health helpline centre, C.A.L.L based in Wrexham, just to name a few.  

MHFAW: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? 

Zoe: We’re looking forward to continuing to deliver MHFA, including the refresher courses and in the new blended delivery style, which has already proven to be popular, helping us to achieve our vision to ‘ensure no person experiencing poor mental health ever feels like they’re on their own.’ 

We’re thrilled that the MHFA training has had such a positive impact on the team at ABF and the wider community, proving the benefits of trained Mental Health First Aiders. As Zoe said, “the skills taught in the training are for anyone and everyone, no matter who you are or where you work”.

If you’d like more information on training with ABF, please contact Zoe at

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