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WHAT IS MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID ?

The importance of promoting good mental health in the workplace.

We all know why we must have qualified physical first aiders at work. 


It is vital to have designated members of staff who can quickly assess, and treat, injuries meaning that further harm is reduced and that major trauma such as heart attack can be supported until professional help arrives. The role of a mental health first aider is very similar.


MHFA's are able to spot, support, and signpost colleagues towards better mental health. In addition MHFA training is designed to be drip fed into the workplace. First Aiders share their knowledge and best practice, helping reduce stress and anxiety, and signposting for depression, alcohol issues and other mental health issues.  

In Australia in 2000 a trauma nurse Betty Ann Kitchner realised how mental health first aid could follow the same rational as its physical counterpart and the Mental Health First Aid movement was founded.


Since then 26 countries, including the US and the UK have their own schemes. In the UK we are now awaiting the mandatory introduction of MHFA's in the workplace as laid out in the 2017 Conservative manifesto.


By 2016 1.7m people worldwide had been trained as MHFA's and in England progressive companies such as E&Y, The Wellcome Trust, W H Smith and Royal Mail have embraced the scheme and have enjoyed and reported the positive benefits since. 

Benefits of having MHFA's in your workplace. 

A number of studies have been carried out showing the people who are trained in mental health first aid showed,

  • improved knowledge,

  • confidence,

  • attitudes and

  • helping behaviour.

A meta-analysis of data from 15 evaluation studies in the International review of Psychiatry concluded that mental health first aid training: 


"increases participants' knowledge regarding mental health, decreases their negative attitudes, and increases supportive behaviours toward individuals with mental health problems"

Training will include

  • An understanding of what mental health is, how to challenge and reduce stigma and how to advocate for mental health awareness

  • An understanding of some common mental health conditions and how to notice some warning signs of illness

  • Hints and tips on looking after your own mental health

  • Skills to support positive mental wellbeing

  • Confidence to interact with someone in distress or who may be experiencing a mental health issue

  • Skills to help someone on a first aid basis and to prevent them hurting themselves or others

  • Knowledge and skills to guide someone to the right support and to help them recover faster


 

THE FINANCIAL COST OF POOR MENTAL HEALTH.

Mental health issues cost £1,300 for every employee in the UK.

By far the largest part of the business cost is in the form of reduced productivity among people who are at work but unwell: or ‘presenteeism’. This costs businesses almost twice as much as sickness absence relating to poor mental health. The remaining costs relate to staff turnover – people leaving their jobs as a result of poor mental health.


Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said: 


At any one time, one in five working people will have a mental health difficulty. Many will never get any help. Some end up losing their jobs while for others being at work is an important part of recovering from a mental health problem….more and more employers have started to take the issue seriously and do more to support the wellbeing of their staff.



Research has proven, again and again, that with the introduction of Mental Health First Aid into the workplace  issues are talked about more openly, more people with mental health problems are speaking about their experiences, and seeking support when they need it.


Businesses save money in three main ways. 


  • Lower absenteeism with earlier interventions for poor mental health.

  • Lower staff turnover due to people leaving because of mental health crisis.

  • More productive staff due to knowledge around stress and working whilst unwell or ‘presenteeism'.

 

"MHFA courses make mental health universal, understanding that we all have a brain that needs looking after and encouraging everyone to practice daily self care."

Natasha Devon MBE