What is a mental health first aider and why should every business have one?

Mental Health can be a controversial topic mainly because of the continued stigma and lack of awareness around it. Whilst many people will have experienced a mental health issue of some capacity in their lifetime, they may not even realise it, or even if they have, would like to admit it. Whilst we all have mental health it’s worth recognising that not everyone suffers from mental ill-health, so it can often be hard for those to understand it.

According to mentalhealth.org stereotypes and the media can play a massive part in creating the stigmas about mental health “Society can have stereotyped views about mental ill-health. Some people believe people with mental health problems are dangerous, when in fact they are at a higher risk of being attacked or harming themselves than hurting other people. And the media reports often link mental ill health with violence, or portray people with mental health problems as dangerous, criminal, evil, or very disabled and unable to live normal, fulfilled lives”. All of which can be very unhelpful when tackling the taboos of mental health.

However, as time has gone on, it’s great to see that more people are talking openly about mental health, this could be because of a generational shift with Gen Z’s suffering from more mental health problems than any other generation. And, as an outspoken age group, to say the least, it has become more of an open conversation. This doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t more work that can be done.

The State of Mental Health

Mind charity estimates that 1 in 4 people in England will experience mental health problems of some kind each year, with 1 in 6 experiencing them in any given week. These can be anything from anxiety, depression, PTSD, phobias, and OCD, to stress to name a few. Mental health is a broad topic and is on the rise, with those suffering from mental health problems rising by 20% between 1993 to 2014. Not only is our mental health suffering but with the numbers increasing, our health services are struggling to keep up with the demand of those requiring help and support. Wait times in England alone for therapy provided on the NHS are at an all-time high with the average wait time currently at 18 weeks. So, with mental ill-health becoming more common, and limitations to the help and support provided, it’s no surprise that it begins to impact our working lives too.

Mental Health in the Workplace

Did you know that in 2019/20, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported that over 17.9 million working days were lost to mental ill-health? A 40% increase from 12.8 million in 2018/19. It’s hardly surprising given that the UK was feeling the full impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic by March 2020. The forced lockdowns, furloughs, illnesses, and job losses (unsurprisingly) had a huge impact on our mental wellbeing.  It’s safe to say that the past few years have been difficult for everyone, and we have all, in some way felt the effects of what has been happing in the world.

On average we spend 8 hours a day at work, and whilst trying to survive a pandemic alongside everything else, it’s clear that our work lives would be impacted in some way.

HSE Guidance on Mental Health First Aid

Back in 2018, long before the pandemic hit and the world changed forever, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) updated their guidance recommending that all employers consider covering Mental Health First Aid training in addition to First Aid at work training. With so many working days lost to mental ill-health, the HSE felt it was time that organisations took more responsibility for the mental health and well-being of their employees and released the guidance with the aim to help organisations reduce workplace stress/absenteeism, attract, and retain the best talent, and create psychologically safe workplaces.

N0t only can lost workdays impact a business, but what is perhaps most alarming is that people with a long-term mental health conditions lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health condition. So, is it time that businesses started taking the guidance of the HSE more seriously?

In short, yes. The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 requires “employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities, and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work. These Regulations apply to all workplaces including those with less than five employees and to the self-employed”, and why should it be any different for mental health? When mental ill-health is as common as we mentioned previously, and has such an impact on everything we do, having the presence of a Mental Health First Aider in any workplace should be a given.

Mental Health First Aid Training

At Hope Health we believe in creating a holistic well-being culture at work that allows businesses to take care of the people that matter the most – the employees. One of the ways in which we do this is by providing Mental Health First Aid training, an internationally recognised training course which teaches people how to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill-health and provide help on a first aid basis. And whilst an MHFA England training course won’t teach you how to become a therapist, just like physical first aid, it will teach you to listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis. Something we believe every workplace across the world could benefit from.

Each month our expert team of MHFA trainers provide Mental health First Aid training to businesses across the UK - helping your teams to recognise the warning signs of mental ill-health and gain the skills and confidence needed to approach and support someone when they need it most. Not only that but Hope Health can help your business every step of the way when looking to embed mental health first aid into your organisation.

If you’d like to find out more about the training we provide, get in touch today:

Below is a list of the upcoming training dates:

25th May 2022 - 9:30 am LIMITED AVAILABILITY

23rd June 2022 - 9:00 am

27th July 2022 - 9:30 am

24th August 2022 - 9:30 am

28th September 2022 - 9:30 am

12th October 2022 - 9:30 am

16th November 2022 - 9:30 am

14th December 2022 - 9:30 am

Nicole O'Callaghan

MHFA Adult & Youth Instructor BA Honours Business Keynote Speaker (PTSD, Stigma, Suicide, Resilience)
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