Mental Health First Aiders at Work

What is a mental health first aider and how can they help in your business?

You may have read and heard a lot in the news and on social media recently about mental health first aiders. But what is a mental health first aider and how can they have a positive effect on your business.

What is the role of a Mental Health First Aider?
The role of a Mental Health First Aider is similar to a first aider at work. Whereas, a (physical) first aider at work might spot and help someone having a heart attack for example, the role of a mental health first aider is to spot signs and symptoms of someone with mental health issues. This could be individuals whose behaviour is not normal for them or who are clearly struggling. This could be anything from changes in eating habits, becoming short tempered or withdrawing from their usual activities.

How can Mental Health First Aiders help?
A mental health first aider often helps in very simple ways.
It might be a friendly ear when things are difficult at work, it might be company on the way into work, a coffee and a chat or a buddy to go for a walk with during lunch.

When work is stressful, it might be someone who suggest ways to do things or helps you have conversations that are worrying you.

As well as identifying and supporting individuals, a trained Mental Health First Aider in your workplace can also have productive conversations about mental health, be a role model and champion how to manage mental health, promote greater understanding of the importance of mental health, and play a significant part in ending stigma and discrimination around mental health in the workplace.

Who can be a mental health first aider?
Being a mental health first aider should be a volunteer role. Nobody should be forced into doing it. Workers may volunteer because they have skills to help or because they have previously faced issues themselves and feel they can help others.

There are several Mental Health First Aid courses available. These are available through mental health providers and charities such as Mind and Rethink who support and can signpost training available. Training varies from an overview to more in-depth training into topics such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar, self-harm, eating disorders and suicide.

There is also training available for Mental Health First Aid Champions, whose role it is to champion positive mental health in the workplace.

Top down leadership of mental health awareness
Awareness of mental health should come from top down leadership. So, if you are the business owner or manager of the business, get involved and encourage awareness and discussions within your business. If you feel comfortable, you may wish to talk about any issues you have faced with mental health.

Preventative Measures
Introducing mental health first aiders in the workplace is just one measure that can be used to support mental health at work. Good prevention should be in place, such as creating an environment that is as stress-free as it can be, ensuring workers are adequately trained and understand their role, ensuring a work life balance and having good occupational health provision. Sometimes someone’s mental health cannot be prevented, but in the workplace, it can be supported with reasonable adjustments, help and understanding.

Mental health is affecting the workplace more and more and it is vital that businesses fully understand what it is, how it can impact people and be able to deal with the stigma around mental health.

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