Mental Health First Aid England

mhfae logo

The Situation

Mental Health First Aid England® provides online resources to a large community of users

MHFA England® is a social enterprise that offers expert guidance and training to support mental health in the workplace and beyond. With over half a million certified MHFAiders® (Mental Health First Aiders) needing access to online resources, the content provided by the MHFA England iOS and Android apps were in high demand.

selection of images from MHFAE app

The Challenge

Maintaining resources and making them more accessible 

MHFA England's leadership team was expecting demand for its digital learning resources to continue to grow, but its current apps needed modernisation to be ready for growth.

After speaking to our business development team, they asked Rocketmakers to develop a new app which could handle current demand as well as scale for future growth. MHFA England also asked Rocketmakers to provide an ongoing support package with a view to improving their digital services over time. 

Our Discovery

A thorough audit of the entire MHFA England digital presence

The Rocketmakers development team was confident about providing MHFA England with a better performing version of the app. Before work could start they needed to understand the backend system that would support the app. 

After undertaking a thorough audit of the entire system, our software architects identified several areas that would need addressing in the short to medium term. These included vulnerabilities which posed risks to system stability, and an inefficient and expensive use of server resources.

One significant problem was the databases that the app relied on. They were built using software which did not scale and was difficult to upgrade. The cloud server it was hosted on was also outdated and expensive to maintain. 

To reduce the risk of systemic failure and to reduce operating costs, Rocketmakers proposed a plan to quickly replace the system’s backend, which MHFA England agreed to.

selection of images from MHFAE app

Our Approach 

Digitally transforming an out-of-date cloud platform

MHFA England had previously maintained two different apps with different code bases: one for Apple iOS devices, and another for Android devices. Rocketmakers replaced these with a single code base built using React and Capacitor. These work seamlessly on iOS, Android, and the web. Besides an upgrade in performance, the new app has lower running costs and is easier to update and maintain. 

Initially, the new app was hooked up to MHFA England’s existing back end, but this was only a temporary measure. After considering various options, the Rocketmakers team decided to switch to a new system in stages. This process is known as the “strangulation” method of digital transformation. It switches off sections of the old server in a carefully planned sequence with each function being taken over instantaneously by the new server.

While sometimes slower than a “big bang” digital transformation method, making the transition in stages allowed the Rocketmakers team to respond to any unforeseen complications before moving to the next phase. This added incremental value as each change was made. 

The team also created a new test environment which would allow changes to be made to the website in stages. Each stage was tested and approved before being pushed out to the live website. This made the process of updating the website easier to manage, and more secure.

The Result

A system that is built for secure, sustainable growth (with lower running costs)

MHFA England’s new app and databases provided it with several advantages its outdated cloud infrastructure lacked.

Now that system risks have been eliminated, the app is much more secure than the previous version. 

The new backend is much more robust and will be much easier to scale as demand grows. Being built using Microsoft Azure containerised servers, the database can scale up instantly when demand peaks. However, MHFA England only pays for the server space it uses during periods of low demand - cutting overall costs.

Rocketmakers also built the back end using Terraform, a tool for managing and recording a systems software architecture. This makes it much easier to ensure that the servers stay up to date, and that they can be rebuilt quickly if needed. 

130k downloads statistic

The Impact

With Rocketmakers’ ongoing support, MHFA England is ready for growth

With demand for mental health resources growing, MHFA England is now ready to provide digital learning content to their growing community of MHFAiders.

With support from our contacts at Azure, we helped build a case for MHFA England to apply for support via the Founders Hub programme. We successfully obtained over $25,000 in credits and licence support to help focus on growing and expanding the platform.

In addition to having a better performing, easier to maintain smartphone app, Rocketmakers is helping MHFA England with ongoing maintenance and support. This has already produced significant results - one review identified additional ways to reduce MHFA England’s server maintenance costs by several thousand pounds per month.

Rocketmakers listened to our needs and took the time to understand us as a social enterprise. But they didn’t stop there. They fully investigated our entire digital system, and when they found optimisations we hadn’t identified, they implemented solutions that brought down our running costs. 

Their support has ensured we are ready for future growth. Our energy and efforts can now go into building and empowering our community to transform how we talk about and support mental health. Whatever challenges we might face in the future, we’re delighted to know that Rocketmakers is in our corner!

Lucy Chiakle

Systems Support Lead, MHFA England

About Mental Health First Aid England

  • Mental Health First Aid England is a social enterprise, established in 2009. It is the national authority on mental health first aid
  • MHFA England’s vision is to improve the mental health of the nation by creating societal change so we can all talk freely about mental health and offer and seek support when we need it
  • This will be achieved by its mission to train at least 1:10 of the adult population in mental health knowledge, awareness, and skills. To date 1:40 (January 2023) of the adult population has been trained by MHFA England
  • MHFA England will achieve its mission through delivering mental health training into workplaces and will extend its reach to the NHS and Black people and People of Colour, through subsidised training
  • The organisation’s training, consultancy, and campaigning is paving the way for positive mental health in the workplace and beyond
  • MHFA England offers consultancy as well as a number of face-to-face, online, and digital training options to increase mental health awareness, knowledge, and skills, including the internationally licensed product, Mental Health First Aid
  • Mental Health First Aid is the mental health equivalent of physical first aid training and provides people with the skills and confidence to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues, start a conversation, and effectively guide a person towards the right support, be that self-help or professional services
  • More information about MHFA England and its training and consultancy can be found at mhfaengland.org or by emailing [email protected]