If someone had a physical injury at work, perhaps a cut to their hand or, if they were having a heart attack, what would you do? You would provide immediate care – fetch the first aid kit and dress the wound, or provide CPR and call the emergency services. But what about when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis?
Unlike physical injuries and medical emergencies, mental health issues can go unseen. Many employees won’t know what to do if a colleague is in crisis. But, mental health first aid in the workplace is just as important as traditional first aid. This blog explores what mental health first aid is, its benefits and the role of mental health first aiders.
What Is the Impact of Poor Mental Health in The Workplace?
Poor mental health can rob us of our ability to live fulfilled lives and maintain healthy relationships. Research shows that it can have a detrimental affect on our physical health and wellbeing too.
This is a big issue. In the UK alone, it’s estimated that the cost of mental illness for UK businesses is around £35 billion annually.
Depression, anxiety and stress are the largest causes of workplace sickness absence in the UK. In the workplace, poor mental health can lead to increased staff turnover. It can also lead to more accidents, presenteeism (at work but unproductive) and a reduced safety culture.
What Is Mental Health First Aid?
Like regular first aid, mental health first aid aims to support those who are suffering. It teaches people how to support those struggling to cope. This may be help provided to someone having troubles with everyday stressors. Or it may be someone experiencing more serious mental health issues.
The aim is to train up mental health first aiders to spot signs and symptoms of mental health conditions. Then they can provide support and encourage colleagues to seek professional help.
Mental health first aid does not train people to treat mental health conditions. Like physical first aid, it aims to provide immediate care until professional care can be sorted.
The mental health first aid program started in Australia in 2000. It’s now a global movement, delivered by licensed providers in 24 countries. It was introduced to the UK in 2007. To date, more than four million people worldwide have been trained up to become mental health first aiders.
What Are the Benefits of Implementing Mental Health First Aid
Implementing mental health first aid in your organisation is a positive move. The benefits include:
- Raised awareness of mental illness
- Increased confidence in dealing with mental health conditions
- Encouraging early intervention, aiding recovery
- Reducing the stigma around mental health
What Is the Role of The Mental Health First Aider
Similar to the role of a traditional first aider, mental health first aiders are the first point of contact for employees suffering from a mental health issue. Their role is to:
- Spot signs and symptoms of mental ill health
- Start non-judgmental and supportive conversations
- Work out if the employee is at risk of self-harm or suicide
- Raise, if necessary, to the appropriate emergency services
- Encourage the employee to seek help
Who Can Become A Mental Health First Aider?
Anyone can. The role tends to attract people who have suffered with mental health issues themselves or who have family members or friends who have. You must be able to show empathy and enjoy engaging with people. If you have these qualities, you can train up by taking a mental health first aid course.
It’s important that mental health first aiders have the capacity to help – so, an employee who has a demanding job may not be the best choice.
Is Having Mental Health First Aiders A Legal Requirement?
No, there’s no legal requirement to have mental health first aiders. But it’s a great way of letting your workforce know that their mental health matters. There’s a lot of evidence that mental health first aid in the workplace increases awareness of mental health conditions. Also, look out for signs and symptoms that someone may be suffering with a mental health issue.
How Many Mental Health First Aiders Do I Need?
There’s no set number of mental health first aiders you should have. It’s recommended that the number of mental health first aiders should at least match the number of physical health first aiders. This is generally one first aider for every 50 employees.
When planning for mental health first aid in the workplace, don’t forget to consider shift patterns, holiday periods and general workplace fluctuations, to make sure you always have assistance on hand.
What Action Should I Take?
The first step is to acknowledge that the workplace, as well as life outside of it, can be stressful. Employees’ mental issues don’t go away when they report into work each day.
Next, consider mental health when you complete risk assessments – mental injuries can be just as damaging as physical injuries.
Build a workplace mental health first aid box. Filled with in-house services like Employee Assistance Programs, counselling sessions and wellness initiatives.
Stop mental health being a taboo subject. Take part in national and international mental health awareness campaigns. In-house campaigns of your own are also helpful. Try posters, workshops, speaker events and blogs. These are all ways you can promote mental health.
A Case Study of The Benefits of Implementing Mental Health First Aid Training
Multiplex, an international construction company, introduced mental health first aider training to their workforce in December 2017. Harrowing mental health industry statistics show that male construction workers are three times more likely to die by suicide than the national average for men. So, Multiplex developed a mental health and wellbeing program, with the aim of protecting and supporting their employees.
A group of 24 employees were sent on a Mental Health First Aiders course. After receiving positive feedback, Multiplex went on to join the Building Mental Health Charter. It supports businesses in the construction industry in rolling out Mental Health First Aid training.
There’s still work to do, but Multiplex is seeing results. We’re seeing the stigma of living and experiencing mental health conditions being reduced. More workers are feeling comfortable to talk about their mental health and seek professional help.
Where to Find Mental Health First Aid Training
Make the mental wellness of your employees a priority. Train them to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental ill-health that they should look out for. Understanding what mental health is and how best to help colleagues who may be experiencing mental distress, can only be a good thing.
We have a course specifically for mental health first aid and a range of other mental health courses that cover different areas of mental health. These courses aim to equip employees with the skills and knowledge they need to confidently assist others, and they may learn something to help themselves as well.