British businesses are training record numbers of workplace “mental health first aiders” in an attempt to address the sharp rise in employees experiencing mental distress, figures show. But while it’s definitely a step in the right direction, organisations shouldn’t see such initiatives as silver bullets in the ongoing fight to reduce mental health issues in the workplace.
[Related reading: A Fifth Of Employees Carry On Working Despite Mental Illness]
According to figures obtained by the Guardian, FTSE 100 companies alone have trained more than 10,000 mental health first aiders, while medium and even small businesses are appointing representatives who employees dealing with stress, anxiety and other mental health issues can approach for help and support.
Mental Health First Aid England, a national training body, said 140,000 individuals were trained in 2018-19 – the most ever in a single year – bringing the total number of people in Britain who have been through a mental health first aid programme to 500,000.
But mental health first aid training is just one part of the solution and businesses risk wasting time and money if they see it as a fix all solution.
Here are 4 additional factors businesses need to consider:
1. Culture first
First and foremost, it is essential that organisations adopt and promote a culture that fully supports the mental wellbeing of staff. Tight deadlines, inflexible working arrangements, conflicting personalities and unequal pay are all factors that can lead to employees experiencing mental health issues.
An important step in achieving the necessary cultural shift is ensuring your mental health wellbeing agenda is driven from the very top. Get senior leaders to open up about their own mental health and encourage others to do so and start those important conversations.
2. Train the right individuals
When appointing Mental Health First Aiders, it is important that the right individuals are trained and you don’t just choose based on a person’s seniority. The best approach is to involve a diverse range of employees, ensuring different levels of seniority, locations, genders and ethnic backgrounds are all represented.
3. Support your first aiders
A big mistake businesses sometimes make is training staff and then not allowing them the time they need to perform their first aider duties. While these individuals shouldn’t be expected to take on another whole role, they do need time to offer support and point fellow colleagues in the right direction for further help.
It’s also crucial to emphasise how important it is for your first aiders to keep an eye on their own mental health and provide them with support avenues should they need them.
4. Keep skills up to date
Just like physical first aid, mental health first aid skills need refreshing and it’s important to keep your employees’ knowledge up to date. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England runs a refresher course that’s designed to help your first aiders maintain their skills and be in the best position possible to support your other staff.
Mental Health First Aid Training – is this the answer? MHFA training is fantastic and is a great step forward in the Mental Health Awareness arena, but it’s not the answer to Mental Health problems on its own.
Business need to have a culture that supports mental wellbeing continually and consistently, so that they can improve the mental wellness of their employees. A business can’t just put MHFA trainers in place and expect everything to be great!
I joined Premier Choice Group as a Healthcare & Protection Consultant in 2017, where I now look after the needs of over 200 clients nationwide. Prior to joining the Premier Choice Group, I worked for a large Private Healthcare Insurer, VitalityHealth, and managed SME and Individual clients across the country.