Why you need a mental health first aider

Mental Health

We all know that a company must have appointed first aiders, but who is taking care of your staff’s mental first aid?

Did you know 57% of UK workers (MIND: Half of workers have experienced poor mental health in current job, 11/09/2018) have experienced some issue with their mental health? And yet, while there is a legal requirement to have a first aider on site in case someone gets hurt at work, there is no such requirement for looking after your staff’s mental health.

However, that could be set to change. Last month, a debate took place in Parliament on legislative change around mental health first aid in the workplace. A cross-party group of MPs backed a motion to introduce legislation that would see mental and physical first aid placed on an equal footing. The move followed a public petition that garnered 200,000 signatures and the backing of 50 UK businesses and 60 MPs.

HSE – the independent regulator for work-related health – has also released guidance on mental health first aid (HSE: First aid needs assessment).

The problem with mental health issues is that they carry extra challenges – the stigma attached to it, the fear that revealing issues to your employer will put your job at risk, that colleagues and managers will judge you… Little surprise that a survey conducted by Mental Health charity Mind revealed that while half those surveyed had experienced a mental health problem, only half of that number had discussed it with their employer.

Aside from the human cost of ignoring mental health issues in the workplace, there is a financial cost too. According to the Centre for Mental Health Mental ill health costs UK employers £34.9 billion each year (Mental Health at Work: The business cost ten years on, 05/09/2017).

Why you need mental first aiders

If you have trained mental first aiders within your organisation, they will gain a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding mental health and the impact it can have on people.

They will also learn how to spot the signs of those who are struggling and gain the confidence to lead them in the direction of the support they need.

Like physical first aiders, it is not the job of your mental first aiders to ‘cure’ anyone with issues – they are there to spot the signs and point people in the direction of professionals who can help them further.

Mental first aiders can help to empower those who have long-term issues and enable them to thrive in the workplace. They can also help prevent mental health issues arising in the workplace by helping to create a supportive culture.

How to get mental first aiders trained

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an internationally recognised training course. It can teach your staff how to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health, offer help and guide them to the appropriate support.

Mental Health First Aiders need to complete a two-day MHFA course. See mhfaengland.org for more details.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and how it could help your business, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 769 282 or contact us here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.