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The Importance of Mental Health First Aiders in the Workplace

Our health and wellbeing is a spectrum that constantly fluctuates from good to poor and back again as we go through our daily lives. Just as all of us have physical health, so we also have mental health.

How we ‘feel’ can vary from experiencing positive to difficult thoughts and emotions, to severe mental health distress.

Mental wellbeing is our ability to cope with the day-to-day stresses of life, to work productively, to interact positively with others and to realise our own potential.  

As a society, we don't always know how to take care of our mental health with the same confidence that we do our physical health. People may not always know how to support a colleague, friend or family member experiencing a mental health issue, or indeed where to go for help with their own mental health needs.  

And although things are improving slowly, stigma still persists around our mental health. 

We know that poor mental health has a huge impact on an individual’s life and those around them. Impacts at work can range from lack of sleep to panic attacks, difficulty in concentrating, low confidence, to stress, anxiety and depression. These symptoms can lead to a downward spiral, as an individual may withdraw from work and social interactions and may lose their support networks and structures at a time when they need them most.

Managing and supporting people’s mental health at work is a critical and growing challenge for employers.

Most of us will be affected in some way by poor mental health, either personally or through family and friends, so mental health is an issue for every organisation in the UK.   

Equally important are the positive business reasons for supporting staff mental health. The world of work is changing, with employee engagement, flexible working, resilience and talent management now common currency.  Positively managing mental health underpins these approaches and can reap rewards in terms of staff morale, productivity, engagement and loyalty.  

But mental health remains the elephant in the room in many workplaces as employees are reluctant to raise the subject for fear of discrimination, and managers may shy away from the subject for fear of making matters worse or provoking consequences.

This culture of silence means undetected mental health issues can spiral into a crisis, resulting in sickness absence, higher levels of presenteeism and increased staff turnover.

Many employers still feel uncertain about their responsibilities around protecting employees set out in the Equality Act 2010 as well as how to make suitable reasonable adjustments for team members experiencing a mental health problem.

So what is Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)?

MHFA is an accredited training course that teaches you how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue.

Becoming a qualified Mental Health First Aider will equip you with the skills to assess, listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis, or to stop a crisis from escalating.   

You learn to recognise warning signals, developing the skills and confidence to approach and support someone experiencing a mental health episode whilst also keeping yourself safe.

As a qualified MHFA you also learn how to empower someone to access the support they might need for their recovery or successful management of their symptoms. And crucially you gain an understanding of how to support positive wellbeing and tackle stigma in the workplace and the world around you. Setting up Wellness Action Plans (WAPs) for team members is also a positive way that you can help. For more information click here.

To train as a Mental Health First Aider, contact MHFA(UK) here.

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