Mental health doesn’t discriminate, it can hit any one of us in the same way physical health can. A large amount of stigma is still attached to conversations surrounding our mental wellbeing making it difficult to talk about which can often lead to those around us to unsure how to offer help and support.
That’s why mental health first aid in the workplace is important, crucial, and beneficial to both the business and the employee.
In the workplace, mental health has the same negative connotations and is often still overlooked by many businesses and employers. However, it is not uncommon for anyone to experience diagnosable mental health problems at some stage of their working life.
Whilst work can be a healthy distraction during trying times, those who do experience workplace mental ill-health express experiences of stigma and discrimination too. Perceived stigma causes us to disguise our symptoms resulting in delayed support and help and worsening symptoms.
Its believed support from colleagues and senior management in the form of mental health first aid is vital in helping mental illnesses at work. However, large numbers of us feel uncomfortable about working with people with mental health symptoms due to lack of understanding and training may deny them of future promotions. Being unsure of how to support a struggling colleague is however not an excuse to overlook mental health first aid, rather it should be your workplace ally.
What Is Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a quality-assured two-day training course designed to teach us how better to understand, identify and support someone suffering from mental ill-health. Not to be confused with therapy, first aid for mental health is not psychotherapy training. Rather it guides you on how to respond, listen and reassure someone during a moment of need and to prevent a crisis from happening. Recognising the warning signs of someone who is suffering mentally is crucial for intervention.
Developed and launched in England in 2006 by the National Institute of Mental Health, MHFA was designed to improve the nation’s approach to mental health. Today, there are more than 33,000 mental health first aiders, 1,900 youth mental health first aiders, 640 MHFA instructors, and 110 Youth MHFA instructors. Whilst these figures are high, up to 300,000 people with mental health issues lose their job each year. With the right support, care, and attention this number can and will decrease.
In the same way we have a personal responsibility to look after the physical health of ourselves and others, MHFA believes we should do the same for our mental wellbeing, through a method of first aid. Adopting an empathetic and systematic approach, the skills taught during a course on mental health first aid help to address concerns both in and out of the workplace.
The Advantages of Mental Health First Aid
Undergoing a two-day MHFA course from varying bodies covers the causes, symptoms, and treatments of everyday mental health problems giving both professionals and non-professionals a deeper understanding. With further knowledge, individuals can feel confident in helping someone who is experiencing a problem.
Mental health first aid helps to spot early warning signs in someone who is struggling and to prevent their mental health condition getting worse. This can be done by encouraging them to seek the relevant help whilst providing hands-on first aid skills first aid to prevent a crisis, such a suicide or self-harm. Furthermore, mental health first aiders can help someone with mental health issues to recover faster as there guide and support network in the workplace.
First aid in mental health in the workplace, reduces discrimination resulting in a reduction in absenteeism (absent from the office) and presenteeism (not present whilst at the office) amongst colleagues.
The Disadvantages of Mental Health First Aid
Being a mental health first aider doesn’t qualify you as a therapist, so there is further support that can be implemented surrounding a struggling employee. As a mental health first aider, you role is spot warning any signs and to react and reassure someone who might be struggling in order to make their life at work easier and to elevate unwanted stress.
However, becoming a mental health first aider can impact your mental health too. Whilst solid training gives you an insight into relevant support you may need it does require careful navigation, setting boundaries and knowing when to convert empathy for apathy.
If you are worried you are struggling, the signs to look for within yourself could be; irritability, feeling overwhelmed, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping.
Another disadvantage is the cost implications. Training is often considered a luxury for most businesses therefore is an unlikely benefit that can be offered to all managers. Those that are trained could be spread thin across varying departments which can again impact their mental health.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Can I Gain From MHFA?
By investing time and money in mental health first aid you’ll begin to look at mental health in a different way. Not only will it help you understand people with mental health problems better, you’ll understand yourself better.
The relevant knowledge and skills from high-quality training not only adds to your professional and personal profile it is a fruitful method in encouraging your team to do the same.
Why Should Mental Health Be Treated As Equal To Physical Health?
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re aware that mental health issues affect just as many people as physical ill-health. In 2018, 16 million people were recorded in the UK having experienced mental illness, this is as high as one in four people.
Supporting others through a mental health issue helps to destigmatise the issue, at work and at home. Lack of training, knowledge at work can result in delayed support due to cost, social pressure, and accessibility.
What Does a Mental Health First Aider Do?
Many managers believe they are responsible for the wellbeing of their staff however have not had the relevant training. Whatever size your workplace, anyone who line manages others should be trained in mental health first aid.
A mental health first aider in the workplace is the go-to member of the office for anyone who is struggling with mental ill-health. Any discussions surrounding the person struggling will have to be shadowed by the mental health first aider to guide them through their distressing time.
Are Mental Health First Aiders Mandatory?
Whilst a lot of businesses believe in today’s world the like are crucial to a company’s success, mental health first aiders are not mandatory in the workplace. Today, most workplaces offer mental health support as a gesture of goodwill by the employer.
If you’d like to find out more about the MHFA training we offer at Everymind at Work for your business, please get in touch.