Mental Health First Aid: Essential to workplace training?


Recently our Assistant Centre Manager, Amie Simpson, went on a mental health first aid course, a form of training that is quickly becoming the norm in the workplace. So I thought it'd be a good opportunity to look into why businesses across the world are focusing their efforts on mental health and wellbeing, and what we can all do to help.


One of the most talked about issues to do with mental illness is the stigma around it which has been strengthened over time due to a lack of knowledge and understanding. Amie stated that the most surprising thing she took away from the course was actually the statistics surrounding mental health in UK. People often believe that mental illness is uncommon, however in 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that “1 in 4 people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.” and currently, 450 million people in the world are experiencing such conditions. As the WHO explain, mental disorders are actually “Among the leading causes of ill health and disability worldwide. Another stigma is that often mental illness or struggling with your mental health is seen is a form of weakness, but we would likely not say this about a broken leg so why should it be different for our brains? Mental Health First Aid states "factors that contribute to a person’s likelihood to develop a mental health disorder include genetics, stress, standard of living, working conditions and social support." None of which relate to strength nor weakness. Amie said the mental health first aid course helped to build on her previous view on the topic, as well as spreading awareness - An important step in improving mental health.


It is no secret that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of mental health and therefore put more responsibility onto business owners and government bodies to combat the growing issue. According to Mind UK's study of the impact Coronavirus has had on mental health, more than half of adults (60%) and over two thirds of young people (68%) have said their mental health got worse during lockdown. Not only have people with experience of mental health problems been more likely to see their mental health worsen as a result of coronavirus restrictions but many without previous experience of mental health problems have experienced poor mental health during lockdown and have seen their mental health and wellbeing decline. Amie stated "Before the pandemic 1 in 4 adults were suffering with mental ill health and since these figures have doubled. This will leave a lasting mark on the majority of people and I think this is becoming widely recognized as a national issue that needs to be included in the governments exit strategy. Mental health is now a regular topic of conversation since being “locked down” and “social distancing” which can only lead to more awareness which is a positive."


According to this study, in 2018, 1 in 10 of those who disclosed a mental health problem at work were dismissed, demoted, or disciplined, 1 in 4 employers said they fear negative consequences if they make their mental health issues formal, and 44% of those surveyed said they would feel comfortable talking to a line manager about their mental health. With this in mind, it is a fairly evident that there is work to be done in terms of mental health in the workplace, which is where courses like these can make a difference, helping employees like Amie "feel more confident in using appropriate languages and where to signpost people to get the full support needed." creating an environment where everyone is more comfortable to discuss the topic in the workplace.


If you could give one piece of advice to anyone struggling with their mental health, what would it be? To not be ashamed of what you are feeling and to seek help and support straight away.


If you could give one piece of advice to anyone not struggling with their mental health, what would it be? To be mindful that you cant always spot people who are struggling, and to look after their own mind as well as body


Would you recommend other businesses to put their staff members through a similar course? Absolutely – I think it should be as important as a medical first aider within a business. It’s a very simple measure to have in place to recognise the warning signs in employees and to reduce the stigma surrounding talking about issues.


It is so important to look after your own mental health and those around you by sharing your experiences and normalising conversations around mental health, check in on your friends, family, and colleagues and keep the conversation going. If you or someone close to you are struggling, see the below resources available to you.


Helpful resources:

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger to themselves, call 999 for an ambulance.

If you need advice and support about your mental health in lockdown, you can find some useful links here - https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/

The NHS's list of Mental Health charities and organisations - https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/nhs-voluntary-charity-services/charity-and-voluntary-services/get-help-from-mental-health-helplines/

The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) movement against suicide - https://www.thecalmzone.net/

NHS Helpline - https://111.nhs.uk/ or call 111

South Yorkshire Eating Disorder Association (SYEDA) - https://www.syeda.org.uk/

BEAT Eating Disorder Charity: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/

Sheffield IAPT online referral: https://iaptsheffield.shsc.nhs.uk/

Samaritans helpline - Call 116 123 (24 hours a day, free to call) or go to https://www.samaritans.org

Mind UK support links - www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helplines

Rethink Mental Illness support lines - Telephone: 0300 5000 927 (9.30am - 4pm Monday to Friday) Email: advice@rethink.org Website: http://www.rethink.org/about-us/our-mental-health-advice

Childline: www.childline.org.uk or call 0800 1111

Depression support groups: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/nhs-voluntary-charity-services/charity-and-voluntary-services/depression-support-groups/

Westfield Health Mental Health First Aid training: https://www.westfieldhealth.com/business/our-solutions/mental-health-first-aid

St John's Ambulance Service Mental Health First Aid training: https://www.sja.org.uk/courses/workplace-mental-health-first-aid/

ROSPA Mental Health First Aid training: https://www.rospa.com/safety-training/work/mental-health-courses/mental-health-first-aid

NHS Mind Plan quiz: https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/