Should Every Company Have a Mental Health First Aider
Until 2017 the term mental health first aider was not a thing. But in 2017 a scheme was put in place by Public Health England in order to train one million people in the act of mental health first aid.
It only takes two days to train as a mental health first aider. But there is yet to be a compulsory mental health first aider installed in all companies across the country.
The role was created in order to reduce the stigma of mental health from everyday working lives.
Whilst many still believe that there is a mental health stigma in the workplace, often causing people to struggle to attempt to carry on with their work. This is due to feeling like they are unable to take time off due to mental health
Why do we need them?
One in four workers suffers from some form of mental health issues during their time at work. From depression to anxiety to living with a mental health disorder such as bipolar or schizophrenia.
Mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and depression are becoming the largest reason for sick days in the UK. Over 91 million days of work are lost per year due to mental health.
Yet, while there are mandatory schemes in place to handle all physical first aid at the workplace it is not yet compulsory to have a mental health first aider. Nor for any member of staff to receive training on the topic.
What does a mental health first aider do?
It is not the role of a mental health first aider to be a counsellor or offer any form of medical advice. A mental health first aider is responsible for being a person’s point of contact should they feel they are struggling with their mental health.
They’re also the person who should be most aware of their team’s general mental health and morale. This is in order to spot signs of anyone who is struggling yet may not feel comfortable coming forwards.
Why don’t we have them?
From personal experience, I am yet to work at a company that trained a member of staff as a mental health first aider. Although a previous company of mine talked about it. However, many companies have had doubts about whether or not to train a mental health first aider.
There are several reasons for indecision. For example, a fear of the position being taken advantage of, with staff taking mental health days that are ‘unnecessary’. Also the delicacy of calling out a staff member who may or may not be struggling mentally but is unwilling to discuss the topic.
Whilst the role has to be taken by someone with obvious compassion and care for their co-worker’s feelings, there is no reason why the role should be taken advantage of in any way.
A mental health first aider is not responsible for signing anyone off work or for calling meetings to discuss people’s personal lives.
Instead, if trained properly, they are the first point of contact for anyone who is struggling and wants to talk. They are a trusted person within the office who is able to offer help wherever needed.
More than 48% of workers in a study of 44,000 UK workers said that they have spoken to a co-worker or member of staff about their mental health, myself included.
Working to reduce mental health stigma
With the introduction of mandatory mental first aiders per company surely the stigma attached to mental health could be lessened even further. It could also reduce sick days among staff. Not to mention increase the morale and health of UK workers across the country.
Everyone has ups and downs whilst they are at work but no one should struggle with their mental health in silence. Particularly not due to the absence of someone to talk to.
Mental health issues can cause loneliness and distrust, among many other symptoms. Having a dedicated member of staff who is able to listen and comfort staff is a stepping block to a healthy work-life balance. It is also a comfort to those that work at such companies who have struggled with mental health in the past.