Why does your organisation need a Mental Health First Aider?

by | Dec 4, 2023 | Health and Wellbeing

What is Mental Health First Aid?

1 in 4 people in UK experience mental illness each year. The Office for National Statistics report that 15.8 million UK work days were lost due to mental illness in 2016, and this number is thought to have increased drastically since the Covid-19 Pandemic. In fact, mental health charity Mind have found that ‘poor mental health is now the number 1 reason we miss work’.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), “workplaces should consider appropriate ways to manage mental ill health such as providing information or training for managers and employees, employing occupational health professionals, appointing mental health trained first aiders, and implementing employee support programmes”.

Mental health first aid is the help you give to an individual who may be developing a mental health problem or experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or condition. This first aid can be given until the person has been given access to, or received the appropriate professional treatment or support.

Mental Health First Aider

What is the Purpose of a Workplace Mental Health First Aider?

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require you to ‘provide adequate and appropriate first-aid equipment, facilities and people so your employees can be given immediate help if they are injured or taken ill at work’ and most workplaces will have one or more First Aiders (depending on the amount of employees they have and other risk factors).  However, there is currently no legal requirement for an organisation to have a Mental Health First Aider – although many organisations are starting to realise the importance of supporting mental health alongside supporting physical health.

Mental Health First Aiders usually undertake the role alongside their current role in the workplace. They can be members of staff, managers, or HR representatives and they are the first point of contact for any employees or staff members who may be struggling with their mental health. This could include (but is not limited to) those experiencing stress, bereavement, anxiety or depression. Often an employee might approach a Mental Health First Aider because they’re having a tough time and just need someone to talk to. Through undertaking training, a Mental Health First Aider is taught how to listen without judgement and to be able to identify the warning signs of mental ill health. Their training will also ensure that they are able to support mental health emergency situations – although they are not a replacement or substitute for a trained therapist or counsellor.

A Mental Health First Aider can direct employees in the direction of appropriate support options such as their GP, the Samaritans, or other mental health charities or therapists either via the NHs or privately. Some workplaces offer Employee Assistance Programmes which provide a limited number of free therapy sessions and a Mental Health First Aider can help support an employee to arrange this.

Mental Health First Aiders are:

  • Able to act in a confidential manner
  • Someone who can remain calm under pressure
  • Individuals who want to learn more about mental health and support others
  • Good communicators who can open and support mental health conversations
  • Able to self-care and protect their own mental health whilst caring for the mental health of others

Mental Health First Aid Training in the Workplace

Many organisations now provide Mental Health Awareness Training to their employees either as a part of their induction, or during their ongoing employment training. This can help employees understand the different factors that can affect mental health and let them obtain the knowledge and support they need for dealing with mental health issues should they arise.

Some organisations also provide First Aid Training courses that also cover mental health and teach people how to recognise and deal with warning signs of mental ill health as well as physical health.

Mental Health First Aid Training takes that next step by specifically teaching individuals how to notice and support others who may be experiencing mental health issues, and helps them to develop the skills and confidence to approach and support someone without putting themselves at risk. Mental Health First Aiders are also often taught to deal with more serious mental health emergencies such as a mental health breakdown or attempted suicide. Many organisations now appoint a staff member to undertake this role in the same way in which they may have a First Aider to deal with injury and illness.

The aims of Mental Health First Aid Training are:

  • To develop a greater understanding of workplace mental health and be able to work towards reducing stigma
  • To help you understand the roles and responsibilities of employers and employees in achieving better mental health in the workplace
  • To highlight the issue of stress in the workplace
  • To give you an increased confidence around mental health issues
  • To demonstrate the importance of early intervention
  • To help you be able to develop and understand a wellness strategy in the workplace

If you’d like to find out more about Mental Health First Aid Training or the other training courses available to support employee mental health then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. RealSense work in collaboration with industry experts to ensure our training is accredited, relevant, engaging and informative. We can also provide bespoke training tailored exactly for the needs of you and your workforce alongside our off-the-shelf course library of over 120 training courses.