In the workplace, a Mental Health First Aider is the person staff should visit when they are suffering from mental health issues. Much like a First Aider, these people are trained to help those suffering with health issues, however their training is specifically for mental health. Also, these first-aiders, specifically for the needs of those with mental health concerns and issues, are different to psychotherapists in the UK and offer a different, yet still important service to the communities in which they serve. Mental Health First Aiders can help those who are in distress to get the help they need. They will also hold the relevant knowledge to identify people who might be suffering with their mental health, enabling them to intervene before the situation gets worse.
What Is a Mental Health First Aider’s Role?
The role of a Mental Health First Aider is to offer support to those suffering from mental health issues. They can help to make a working environment more supportive, offering a helping hand to any employee who may need it.
Mental Health First Aiders will have to assess individuals to ensure their mental health does not further decline. If a person is feeling progressively worse, or moving towards suicide or self-harm, more people may have to become involved. It is important to note that Mental Health First Aiders are not qualified therapists, so cannot offer the range of therapies for mental health that for example, our practice can. Rather, they are rather there for a more basic level of support to those who need it.
Much like other forms of support in the health sector, this role requires complete confidentiality. Mental Health First Aiders should respect the privacy of those who confide in them with their problems, and should only break confidentiality when absolutely necessary (e.g. the sufferer is in danger of suicide).
Why Are Mental Health First Aiders Important?
Mental Health First Aiders provide a level of support that employees may not otherwise find in their place of work. They can help to identify members of staff who are suffering, and help to support them. Through this support, Mental Health First Aiders can stop someone’s mental health from declining even further, thereby promoting workplace wellbeing and quality of life.
Those who suffer from mental health issues can find it difficult to ask for help. By having a designated person to talk to, employees may find it easier to open up about their problems. Mental Health First Aiders are also trained to identify those who could be suffering from mental health and can reach out to them. This can further help to support people’s mental health and wellbeing throughout a workplace.
Mental Health First Aiders can also be incredibly important for businesses, helping to promote employee wellbeing and ensure that their workforce is happy and healthy. This can further increase productivity and improve staff retention, as it helps to create a caring work environment that people want to perform well in.
Are Mental Health First Aiders Mandatory?
Whilst although the subject was debated in parliament early last year, Mental Health First Aiders are not mandatory in the workplace. However, the debate last year occurred due to an increasing amount of employers promoting the use of Mental Health First Aiders. Whilst no laws have yet been changed on the matter, many have recognised the importance of these first aiders in the workplace, the changes they can make to people’s lives and the working environment altogether.
Why Is Mental Health as Important as Physical Health?
Just as many people are affected by mental ill-health as they are by physical ill-health. In the UK, around 1 in every 4 people will suffer from a problem with their mental health. If those suffering are not supported, they can begin to feel stigmatised and isolated, which can only exacerbate their mental decline.
It is vital to uphold mental health as much as physical health, as without support, sufferers can rapidly decline to damaging states of mind.
Mental health is not just important to maintain from a personal perspective, but also from a business point of view, as it can have a considerable impact on productivity and efficiency. In 2018, the amount of days lost to work-related anxiety, depression and stress outweighed the amount lost to non-fatal injuries at work by a staggering 11.9 million.
How Do I Become a Mental Health First Aider?
Mental Health First Aid England provide in-house training to all different types of organisations, and have worked with more than 20,000 employers to help train and raise awareness to the importance of good mental health. MHFA England claim that
“each organisation’s culture is unique, and the key to maintaining a mentally healthy workplace is understanding the people within it.”