Health & Safety Executive Case Study Mandatory – Mental Health Training

Mental Health First Aid

Health & Safety Executive Case Study Mandatory – Mental Health Training

The Health & Safety Executive on the back of our Shades of Blue campaign approached us about creating a case study to capture our work.  We happily obliged and this is what we had to say…..

The Problem

‘Mental Health First Aid’ isn’t given the same priority as physical ‘First Aid’ and yet it is well understood that a person’s ‘welfare’ includes emotional wellbeing and that physical and emotional health are intrinsically linked.

Parity of esteem, which is the principle by which mental health must be given equal priority to physical health was enshrined in law by the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

To put this into context;

  • Mental ill health is also associated with increased chances of physical illness, increasing the risks of the person having conditions such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes or respiratory disease.
  • Poor physical health increases the risk of mental illness.
  • The risk of depression is doubled for people with diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease and heart failure, and tripled in those with stroke, end-stage renal failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The Solution

If we’re going to put mental health on an equal footing to physical health there is no reason why we can’t connect these together to form a holistic view of general wellbeing. MHScot’s ‘Shades of Blue’ campaign to raise this very issue has received huge interest and parliamentary support.

The focus of the campaign is for a version of ‘Mental Health First Aid’ to be introduced in the workplace. This draws its roots from The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 which require employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work. In relation to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 employers are required to safeguard, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees and others who may be affected by the work activity.

Under The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, MHScot is campaigning for ‘employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work’.

In its current form, this means that

  • First Aid is the given to someone who is injured or ill, to keep them safe until they can get more advanced medical treatment by seeing a doctor, health professional or go to hospital.

There is an uncanny resemblance to this and the descriptor for Mental Health First Aid which states

  • Mental Health First Aid is an initial response to distress and that this help is given only until other suitable or professional help can be found.

The Results and Benefits

Just like First Aid, Mental Health First Aid has similarities in the benefits it provides. It can

  • Save lives
  • Reduce the number of incidents of distress in the workplace
  • Gives employees confidence and clarity during an emergency
  • Reduce recovery time
  • Can keep employees supported outside of the workplace
  • Reduces stigma

We know that

  • When we offer to help kindly and without judging or talking down to a person they often feel relieved and comforted.
  • When we listen without judging and without immediately trying to fix problems a person will often talk through the crisis and feel calmer and more able to get appropriate help.
  • When we understand the nature of mental health problems they are not so frightening.
  • Mental health first aiders are encouraged to remind others of the message of recovery and to apply it when offering to help another person.

Training would equip individuals with the necessary skills to recognise, understand and provide foundation support to colleagues who may be experiencing a mental health issue

When individuals in the workplace are better trained in dealing with mental health issues, then they can play a more proactive and effective role in facilitating interventions and managing any required onward referrals to more dedicated professional support.

This means that those colleagues who are experiencing a mental health issue are more likely to remain at work, and are less likely to develop more severe symptoms which may ultimately exclude them from the workplace more permanently. The potential costs to the individual and the business are therefore vastly reduced in most cases.

Potential benefits of implementing a mental health first aid programme include a reduction in overall sickness absence, particularly frequent short periods of absence, as well as error rates and the number of accidents.

At the same time, such a scheme would improve work performance, productivity, output, creativity and decision-making, largely because staff would be more motivated, committed, and better at time-keeping. Retention rates would also go up, making such a programme a sound investment, when companies factor in the costs of hiring new staff, particularly at the highest levels of management.

  • It is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, accounting for 11.7 million sick days in 2015-2016.
  • It currently equates to £554 per person per year with 40 percent of organisations now reporting an increase in stress-related absence, and the probability of employees who have been off work for six months getting back to work in another six months is reduced to 10 per cent.
  • On average, each person experiencing mental health related conditions took 23 days off work.