Why workplaces need mental health first aiders2

Why workplaces need mental health first aiders

Mental health has been brought to the forefront of conversations over the course of the pandemic. 1 in 4 of us are likely to experience a mental health problem each year, and it’s no surprise that this can impact our ability to work.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to poor mental health in the workplace, most of which only lead to further stress if left unaddressed. Mental ill-health is the single largest cause of disability in the UK when accounting for direct costs of services, lost productivity at work and reduced quality of life.

Mental health first aiders give employees someone to turn to when they’re struggling with their mental health. Businesses need to ensure that they’re looking after the mental health of their staff, both for employee wellbeing and business success. Reducing the stigma around mental health and having dedicated people to talk to can help to prevent employees from suffering, and instead feel safe to approach the topic and resolve the issue before it gets too severe.

What is mental health first aid training?

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training is the mental equivalent to physical first aid. It’s designed to raise awareness of mental health and reduce the stigma that can often surround mental health issues. The course equips people with the knowledge and confidence to support someone who is experiencing mental distress.

What are mental health first aiders trained to do?

The role of a mental health first aider in the workplace is to be a point of contact for an employee who is experiencing a mental health issue. This interaction could range from having an initial conversation to supporting them to get appropriate help. They are not trained to be therapists, psychiatrists or counsellors, but they can offer initial support through non-judgemental listening and guidance.

The main responsibilities of a mental health first aider are:

  • Spot the early signs and symptoms of mental ill-health.
  • Start a supportive conversation with a colleague who may be experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress.
  • Listen to the person non-judgmentally.
  • Assess the risk of suicide or self-harm.
  • Encourage the person to access appropriate professional support or self-help strategies.
  • Escalate to the appropriate emergency services if necessary.
  • Maintain confidentiality as appropriate.
  • Complete critical incident documents as and when necessary.
  • Protect themselves while performing their role.

Why have MHFA at work?

According to our changing attitudes to mental health report, in 2021 businesses saw an average of 3.36 mental health days off per employee, costing the UK economy £12.7bn. As well as this, 43% of workers say their mental health has gotten worse since the start of the pandemic.

Training people in mental health awareness and skills to deal with mental health issues at work helps to build an open and supportive culture around mental health. It gives employees the opportunity to go to someone in the workplace if they don’t feel comfortable talking to their manager about their mental health. When employees know there’s somebody to go to with these issues, it can help prevent them from getting any worse and allow for faster recovery for the employee.

We asked some of our own MHFAs about what it means to them and why having dedicated mental health first aiders within the workplace is so important.

How can I book a course?

At Westfield Health we offer this training for businesses looking to have qualified mental health first aiders within their company. The course is internationally recognised and has been developed by the Department of Health and Mental Health First Aid England. We also offer a Certified MHFA Refresher Course and Certified MHFA Aware course.

You can find out more about the courses we offer by visiting our MHFA page. If you have any questions or are looking to book your space, please call us on 0345 602 1629 or email businessenquiries@westfieldhealth.com.

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Elaine Watson 25 Dec 2020

Do you have online courses available?

Hi Elaine,
Yes we do. You can find out more information on the courses and how to book here.

Best wishes
The Westfield Health Team