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What is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental Health First Aid involves:

  • Identifying the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues
  • Offering non-judgemental support and reassurance
  • Guiding individuals to seek professional help


The Impact of Poor Mental Health in the Workplace

Each year, 1 in 4 people in the UK experience mental illness, leading to 15.8 million lost workdays in 2016. Mental illness, primarily depression, stress, and anxiety, costs UK businesses approximately £35 billion annually, including:

  • £10.6 billion from sickness absence
  • £21.2 billion from reduced productivity
  • £3.1 billion from replacing employees who leave due to mental illness


Benefits of Mental Health First Aid Certification

Research shows that Mental Health First Aid training:

  • Raises awareness of mental illnesses
  • Encourages early intervention to aid recovery
  • Increases confidence in dealing with mental health issues
  • Reduces stigma around mental health

In the workplace, many people are unaware of how to recognise or respond to mental health issues, and may unintentionally exhibit stigmatising behaviours. By becoming more informed, managers and employees can better identify and support those with mental health issues.

Employees might not realise they have a mental health issue or might be reluctant to seek help. An organisation’s informed and supportive response can lead to better outcomes. Improving mental health management in UK workplaces could potentially save employers £8 billion annually by reducing losses related to mental illness by 30%.


What Actions Should Be Taken?

Organisations should consider:

  • Including mental health in health and safety risk assessments, alongside physical health
  • Managing and mitigating workplace mental health risks, and providing support for those with mental health issues
  • Treating mental health with the same importance as physical health, such as having an equal number of mental health and physical health first aiders

Workplaces may also:

  • Have qualified Mental Health First Aiders, ensuring adequate coverage for absences or multiple sites
  • Follow the recommendations of the Thriving at Work: Stevenson/Farmer review
  • Promote a healthy workplace through mental health awareness training and resources
  • Ensure HR policies accommodate the needs of employees with mental health conditions
  • Develop and communicate a clear mental health wellbeing policy, as many employees may be unaware of its existence


How Many Mental Health First Aiders Are Needed?

It is recommended that employers aim to have as many mental health first aiders as physical health first aiders.


What Hasn’t Changed?

The new guidance does not replace existing first aid guidance for employers. Mental Health First Aid courses are not intended to replace professional mental health care or therapy. Employers are still required to protect employees from workplace stress through risk assessments and appropriate actions.


Is Having Mental Health First Aiders a Legal Requirement?

While having Mental Health First Aiders is recommended, it is not a legal requirement. Employers are encouraged to consider employees’ mental health and provide a safe working environment, possibly through a needs assessment and appropriate strategies.

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