Mental health first aid is a must

Overwhelming: Mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression can be work-related but some conditions can be genetic or triggered by a life-changing event
Overwhelming: Mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression can be work-related but some conditions can be genetic or triggered by a life-changing event

Mental health encompasses our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing.

Good mental health gives us a sense of purpose. It gives us the energy to do the things we want to do and the ability to cope with the challenges life throws at us.

But one in four people in the UK will at some point in their lives have a mental health problem. These are issues that can affect the way we think, feel and behave. They also help to determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

According to the results of a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the impact that mental ill health can have on an organisation can be wide-ranging and significant.

The study found that 37% of sufferers are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues, more than half (57%) find it harder to juggle multiple tasks, while 62% take longer to do tasks. In addition, four out of five sufferers (80%) find it difficult to concentrate and 50% are potentially less patient with customers or clients.
Most mental health issues are mild and tend to be short-term.

While treatment by a GP and psychotherapy is usually successful, mental illness is the largest cause of disability in the UK. Mental illness is estimated by the Department of Health to cost the economy around £105 billion each year; one in 6.8 people are experiencing mental health problems in the workplace; and 12.7% of all sickness absence in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions.

That it is why managing mental health in the workplace is so important, not least because employers have a legal responsibility to help staff, whether work is causing the health issue or aggravating it. Employees are a company’s most valuable resource and ensuring their wellbeing is not just ethically sound but good business sense.

With the right mechanisms in place companies can support employees suffering with mental ill health, which is why it is important that there are staff trained to be mental health champions/first aiders. They can spot the signs of mental health problems and potentially help distressed individuals seek professional help sooner.

Our mental health first aid training course, which we can deliver at our training centre in Dyce, at clients’ premises and even offshore, is designed to help people to develop the skills to start supportive conversations and to listen without judgment; to assess the risk of suicide or self-harm and to encourage access to appropriate professional support.

They are taught to escalate to the appropriate emergency services, if necessary, and to protect themselves in their role, and to maintain appropriate confidentiality.

Mental health first aid training is not a substitute for a comprehensive health and wellbeing programme but it is a crucial component. Anxiety and depression are the most common problems. While they can be caused by work issues, they are often a reaction to a difficult life event.

Just as every organisation has a physical first aider on hand to deal with the unexpected and unavoidable, they – and their employees – can also reap the benefits of having a fully trained mental health first aider.