Mental Health First Aid

Mental Health First Aid

In support of mental health awareness week, H&S Consultant Colin Jones looks to discuss mental health first aid and offer advice to employers.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have updated their guidance, from 2018, employers need to consider covering Mental Health First Aid training in addition to First Aid at Work training.

A number of employers are embracing the fact that mental health issues and work related illnesses are impacting on their businesses. Putting supportive control measures are becoming as important to manage mental health as it is physical health. Having Mental Health First Aid can go a long way in helping managing this growing issue.

What Is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental health first aid is:

  • Spotting the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues
  • Providing non-judgemental support and reassurance
  • Guiding a person to seek professional support.

What Action Should I Take?

Organisations should consider:

  • Ensuring that their health and safety risk assessments consider not just physical health and risks, but also mental health and risks
  • Managing and mitigating the risks of harm in the workplace and having ways to support people with mental health issues
  • Treating mental health in a similar way to physical health. For example, by having as many first aiders for mental health as for physical health.

Your Workplace May Want To:

  • Have qualified Mental Health First Aiders. This includes adequate mental health first aid cover for periods of absence or multiple workplace sites.
  • Encourage all employees to maintain a healthy workplace through mental health awareness training or resources
  • Ensure that policies and practices recognise the needs of those with mental health conditions.
  • Have a clear and a well communicated mental health policy.

What Hasn’t Changed?

The new guidance doesn’t replace any existing guidance for employers on first aid at work. Provision of care within the workplace is not intended to replace professional mental health care or therapy. The Mental Health First Aid courses do not enable an individual to act as a mental health professional such as a therapist or psychiatrist.

There is existing guidance and regulations around stress in the workplace, in addition to this latest guidance. For example, HSE guidance for stress in the workplace state that employees have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it. This can also reduce the incidence and negative impact of mental ill health.

Is Having Mental Health First Aiders a Legal Requirement?

Having Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace is a recommendation, not legislation, so there is no set date when workplaces must have sufficient mental health provision.

Employers need to treat mental health in a similar way to physical health. Employers are encouraged to take steps to consider employees’ mental health to provide a safe working environment. Workplaces could undertake a needs assessment and put in place strategies to address any risks and needs highlighted.

How Many Mental Health First Aiders Do I Need?

It is recommend that employers should try to have as many first aiders for mental health as first aiders for physical health.

What is the impact of poor mental health in the workplace?

Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience mental illness each year. In 2016, 15.8 million UK work days were lost due to mental illness.*

The largest causes of sickness absence for our country’s workforce are depression, stress, and anxiety which contributed to 51% of work related illness. This equates to:

  • £10.6 billion lost to sickness absence,
  • £21.2 billion in reduced productivity,
  • £3.1 billion in substituting employees members who vacate their roles due to mental illness.**

What Are the Benefits of Trained Mental Health First Aiders?

Independent research and evaluation shows that taking part in a Mental Health First Aid:

  • Raises awareness of mental illnesses,
  • Encourages early intervention to aid recovery
  • Increases confidence in dealing with mental illnesses
  • Reduces stigma around mental health issues

In the workplace, there is still a great deal of ignorance around mental health issues. Many people are uncertain about how to recognise mental illness, and unsure about how to react when faced with it. The might also unwittingly exhibit stigmatising behaviours and attitudes. This means that those in need of mental health help and support do not receive it.

By becoming more informed and aware, managers and employees will be able to more easily spot the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and provide the right support.

Someone with poor mental health may not realise it. Even if they do, they may be reluctant to seek help, or might not know where to turn for care. For an employee experiencing a mental health issue, your organisation’s informed and supportive response is likely to lead to a much more beneficial outcome.

Research suggests that improving UK workplace mental health management could reduce employers’ losses attributed to mental illness by 30%, collectively saving £8 billion a year.***

*Office of National Statistics

**MHFA England

***Centre for Mental Health

Want to Learn More?

Recently, oneHR sponsored a peopleHUB event that discussed mental health in the workplace and was presented by our guest speaker, Michelle Morgan.

Michelle is a successful author and an ambassador for mental health first aid England, and took the time to tell us her story and open the discussion around mental health and creating a better environment for supporting those struggling.

We host useful and insightful webinars on a wide range of topics every month, if you would like to get involved with the Peoplehub community, learn more about a variety of topics and grow your networks, please do join us for the next one!

If you have any Health and Safety concerns or would like to discuss anything further, please get in contact with the oneHR team today to see how we can help.


Twitter: @oneHR_

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