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Mental Health First Aiders in the Workplace
Following the launch of our Build a Better Workforce survey, we are sharing useful tips on how to make your workplace even better for staff. Laura Wood, our Clinical, Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Specialist, kicks of a new series of information focused on how you can best support your staff.
In October 2017, Paul Farmer and Lord Dennis Stevenson conducted an independent review for the Government titled ‘Thriving at Work’. This highlighted that the Mental Health and wellbeing of employees was one of the key areas that needed to be addressed to keep people safe at work. Employers have a legal duty of care to ensure that employees are provided with a safe working environment and must take reasonable care to prevent personal injury (including mental or physical harm) that may arise in the workplace.
Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental illness each year. In 2016, 15.8 million UK workdays were lost due to mental illness (Office of National Statistics). The largest causes of sickness absence for our country’s workforce are depression, stress, and anxiety.
Many employers are recruiting ‘Mental Health First Aiders’ in the workplace. They are trained staff who are assigned the responsibility of attempting to safeguard the wellbeing of others in the workplace. They are the ‘go to’ person for anyone experiencing mental health issues and can signpost that individual to further support. They can also identify when someone may be experiencing a deterioration in their mental health.
Mental Health First Aiders do not teach people to become therapists or counsellors, nor do they diagnose mental health conditions. Instead, the role of the Mental Health First Aider is to provide reassurance and support to a person who is experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress at work.
The role may not be suitable for all staff, and it is a voluntary role. If an employee feels that the role is impacting on their own wellbeing they should step down from their role as their own mental health is a priority
Mental Health First Aiders carry the following responsibilities:
- Keeping themselves safe and well
- Communicating any concerns about mental health and well-being of employees to an appropriate manager
- Following their own organisational policies and procedures in relation to the role
- Establishing professional boundaries with the person they are supporting
- Refreshing their skills every 3 years on an approved MHFA refresher course
The benefits of having Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace compliments other initiatives such as employee assistance programmes [link to previous blog] and employee reward initiatives.
As a responsible employer, placing the same emphasis on an employee’s mental health as well as their physical wellbeing is key.
Having a Mental Health First Aider benefits employees significantly by getting them the help they need and reducing the stigma. Mental health issues are the leading cause of absences from work and having a Mental Health First Aider on hand to aid individuals means that they’ll be able to help early on, before problems get worse and require long term absences. This also creates an open culture in the workplace which creates a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.
Employee Assistance Programmes for your workplace
Being a Carer Friendly Workplace
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