Everybody has mental health. And just like your physical health, it goes up and down. We all have times when we feel confident, positive and ready to take on the world. But, also, other times when we feel stressed or down, or just don’t want to get out of bed.
While everybody’s mental health is different, it’s important to remember that we all go through these rough patches. Sometimes these struggles go on for an extended period, or we are unable to pull out of them on our own. This is where Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) comes in.
What is Mental Health First Aid? MHFA training is designed to identify, manage and ultimately preserve the life of a person who is suffering from a mental health crisis. It offers a strategy to give emergency aid to those who are struggling with an urgent mental health situation. For example, what to do if someone is at risk of harming themselves or others.
The Foundation of Mental Health First Aid
Mental Health First Aid was first launched in Australia in 2001. It was founded by Betty Kitchener, a nurse specialising in health education, and Anthony Jorm, a mental health literacy professor.
Since its inception, Mental Health First Aid has spread to all corners of the world. A wide range of organisations, including universities and businesses, have adopted the strategies in the programme with positive results.
Mental Health First Aid England
Mental health first aid first came to Great Britain in 2007. But it wasn’t until 2009 that Mental Health First Aid England became established as a community interest company. In this same year, they began offering a two-day MHFA training for adults. A year later, they launched a similar programme focused on youth mental health first aid.
Over the years, Mental Health First Aid England has continued to grow. Currently, it’s head office is in London with over 100 members.
What Exactly is First Aid for Mental Health?
As mentioned, first aid for mental health is similar to regular first aid. The strategy is to teach the practitioner how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.
It also introduces participants to the warning signs of the onset of poor mental health, the possible detrimental impact of mental stress, how to approach someone suffering from a mental health crisis, and a list of common treatments to help mitigate it.
Most of us are aware of the existence of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and addictions. But, at the same time, we would be hard-pressed to identify the warning signs of each individual illness, much less how to treat them.
Mental Health First Aid equips trainees with this knowledge. It provides concrete tools for helping those suffering from mental illness. And it gives first aiders the tools and knowledge to direct them towards professional help and support.
Why is Mental Health First Aid Important?
Simply put, mental health is a growing issue for individuals and employers. It’s estimated that around 25% of people experience a mental health issue of some kind each year. Mixed anxiety and depression are the most common issues affecting around 8% of the population, followed by generalised anxiety disorder at 6% and PTSD at 4%.
On an individual level, these issues make performing normal, everyday activities extremely difficult and reduces quality of life, both personally and professionally. The cost of mental health illness can be direct, such as someone paying for professional help, or indirect from lost work, social or educational opportunities, the effects of stigma, and reduced life expectancy.
For business and organisations, mental health has a massive impact. Mental health disorders are one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. They are also the leading cause of sickness absence in the workplace. There are some 70 million work days lost each year in the UK due to mental health issues. This amounts to a cost of £2.4 billion to employers.
Despite this, many of those struggling, often do not seek the help they need. This is often because they are afraid of being stigmatised for having a disorder or for needing help. They may also be unaware that help is available. Or they may not be aware of how their mental health impacts their lives.
It’s for this reason that providing first aid for mental health is so critical, as it enables those with training to help those who need it, maximising support and reducing suffering.
Who Should Study Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid is a great skill for anyone who wants to improve their awareness of mental health, but it can be especially useful in the workplace.
Courses such as Mental Health Awareness training are suggested for:
- All employees, working in any workplace environment, globally
- All business owners, management teams and supervisors, working in any workplace environment, globally
Every business or organisation should have some sort of Mental Health First Aid or Mental Health Awareness training in place. Having employees and managers equipped to deal with mental health problems will benefit both your workforce and your company.
Not only does it generate trust in your workforce by demonstrating to your employees that you have their well-being in mind, but it improves productivity by having happier workers who take less sick days and suffer from less burn out.
How to Support Good Mental Health in Your Own Workplace
Good mental health in the workplace and strong management go hand in hand. There is ample evidence that workplaces with high levels of mental wellbeing are more productive, whereas workplaces with high levels of mental health disorders suffer from lower productivity, profits and employee morale.
With that in mind, there are a number of steps that companies can take in order to foster a good mental health environment in the workplace:
- Develop an approach to mental health at work that protects and improves mental health for everyone, while supporting those people who experience distress.
- Improve working culture to ensure that it is as mentally healthy as possible. Provide scientifically-proven tools that encourage good mental health such as mindfulness and exercise to all staff.
- Conduct regular surveys to determine the mental wellbeing of your staff, and use that data to plan and implement better workplace policies. If you find that the status quo is negatively affecting the mental health of your staff, make changes to improve it.
- Train employees and managers in first aid for mental health and Mental Health Awareness so that they can provide support to their colleagues should the need arise.
What is Mental Health First Aid Training
Now more than ever being able to recognise and treat mental health illness is a crucial skill that can be used to foster a healthy and supportive community, both in the workplace but also at home. If you wish to gain the training yourself or provide this training to your staff, there are several training options available. Mental Health First Aid England offers a tool to help locate face-to-face training that may be happening in your area.
You can now complete mental health first aid training online with Human Focus, which allows you to complete the training anywhere, based around your schedule.
Alongside this, Human Focus also offers other mental health programmes, which make it possible to learn how to confront and overcome mental health challenges, and be more cognizant about the nature of mental health.