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The importance of Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace and Community

As a therapist, I work with a large number of clients who are experiencing mental distress or are in a period of mental poor health. It’s important to remember that our mental health isn’t fixed; it can be viewed on a continuum, ebbing and flowing throughout our lifetime.

A particular challenge with mental poor health is the stigma that is so often associated with it. This means that people experiencing a decline in their mental well-being can be seen as weak. In turn, this means that many people then fail to come forward to seek help until their condition has reached a point where they are taking time off work, their relationships are suffering and their ability to cope with every-day situations is severely impaired.

But stigma can be broken and we can help people come forward earlier. Stress, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, psychosis, self-harm, and suicide are issues that we should all be aware of and able to talk about openly. And there are simple tools we can all use to make sure we can.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is one of those tools.

MHFA can be thought of in the same way as physical first aid. It doesn’t teach you to be a therapist or a counsellor, in the same way that physical first aid doesn’t teach you how to be doctor or a nurse. Rather, it gives you the knowledge, skills and confidence to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues and effectively guide a person towards the right support, be that self-help information, an employee assistance programme, or NHS services.

Mental ill health is very common. One in four people in the UK will experience at least one diagnosable mental health issue in any one year, with suicide being the biggest killer of men aged 20 to 49. Poor mental health can have a significant impact in the workplace too. At any one time, one worker in every six will be experiencing depression, anxiety or issues relating to stress. This costs the UK economy up to £99 billion according to a recent government review, with a total cost to employers of around £42 billion each year – that’s equivalent to £1,300 for every employee in the UK workforce!

It’s no surprise then that, as a business, investing in the mental health of your employees can have a significant impact on your bottom line. Thousands of organisations already use MHFAiders as one part of a wider approach to better support their employees, and are seeing a real impact.

With so many employers training staff in MHFA, in November the Health and Safety Executive released new guidance for workplaces on including mental health as part of their first aid needs assessment. It now officially recommends appointing ‘mental health trained first aiders’ alongside other supports. This is a really positive move in the push to destigmatise mental ill health, steering us all to move towards mentally healthier workplaces and communities where people feel able to come forward to seek support.

So what’s the next step? Well, to be a Mental Health First Aider, you need to have completed the internationally recognised Adult MHFA Two Day course. MHFA England also offers specific courses for the Armed Forces, for those working with young people, and for staff and students in Higher Education.

The next available Adult MHFA Two Day course (open to the public) is 28th February and 1st March 2019 in Pickering. Numbers are strictly limited to ensure that the course is delivered safely, as we discuss some emotive issues such as suicide and self-harm. All delegates are fully supported throughout the course, and will come away from the training feeling empowered by their learning.

If you would like more information or to book a place, please get in touch.  If you would prefer a course delivered in-house within your business or community group, please get in touch and I will be happy to help.

Best wishes for a mentally health 2019,



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