Mental Health First Aider’s in the workplace – something to consider?
Recently I successfully completed the St John’s Ambulance L3 Adult Mental Health Workplace First Aider course along with two of my colleagues, Jemma Jones, a Partner in our Family team and Sam Taylor, a trainee in our Litigation team. Having completed the St John’s ‘physical’ First Aid course earlier this year, I was a little unsure as to how a Mental Health First Aider could be considered equally as important in the workplace, however it quickly became apparent that this preconception was very much a misconception.
According to the charity Mind, 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England. We simply cannot ignore that every single workplace, regardless of size, sector or location, will have employees who are struggling with their mental health (whether these employees have expressed these struggles or not) and it should be the responsibility of the employer to ensure they are doing everything they can to support these people. If somebody injures themselves in the workplace, there is a requirement that there is a First Aider available to see to that person and this should be no different for a person who is experiencing difficulties with their mental health, whether that be an episode, a crisis or just a bad day at work.
The role of a Mental Health First Aider is not to attempt to diagnose and treat a person but to listen to them, and if necessary, signpost them to places/people/resources that may help them based on what that person is telling them. Although, sometimes, just being able to offload on to another person is all that is required. As Mental Health First Aider’s, we have been provided with the tools and resources in order that we may be able to recognise what that other person may need in that moment and to support (not force) that person to get the help they may need, whether that be to visit their GP, access a helpline, or just to set up weekly check in meetings.
As well as supporting employees in a ‘First Aid’ sense, the role of the Mental Health First Aider is to promote wellbeing in the workplace. For example, here at BPE we will be working on encouraging employees to practice mindfulness throughout the day by placing activities in our kitchen area for any employee that feels they need a break from their desk or from whatever is going on that day and to just to spend a bit of time doing something completely mindful.
In addition to the above we are seeing many employers implement employee assistance programmes and mental health benefits such as subsidised therapy or counselling for their employees. Some employers are also offering wellness initiatives such as gym or yoga membership and mindfulness programmes.
There are so many simple ideas that businesses can implement that could make a real difference to an employee’s working career. The above actions come at very little cost/impact on the business and can in fact generate a financial saving when considering the consequence of repeated or long term sick leave on a business. Such actions by a business also demonstrates to employees that their mental wellbeing is extremely important to you as their employer. As the old saying goes, they are your most important asset.
Although there is no legal requirement for workplaces to have Mental Health First Aider’s as there are for ‘physical’ First Aider’s, it really is something that businesses should look in to.
Employment tribunal claims involving some element of mental health are becoming a lot more common, in order to protect itself, businesses should ensure that they are able to demonstrate that they take health and safety of their employees, including mental health, seriously.
Here is a link to the MIND website.
Here is a link to the St John Ambulance website.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of articles only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.