Where Does Mental Health First Aid fit in the Workplace?

Where Does Mental Health First Aid fit in the Workplace?

A large part of my job over and above some of the course delivery is to read and keep up-to-date with the current research and discussions relating to mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. It never surprises me to see so many different workshops, courses, education and awareness raising on offer, some crossing over into emotional intelligence, leadership, coaching and mentoring etc.

More recently though, through discussions in the news and on Social Media, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and Health & Safety Executive have been questioning and exploring where Mental Health First Aid fits in the workplace.

The campaign, Where’s Your Head At?, is a campaign looking to improve the mental health of the nation by ensuring employers look after the wellbeing of their workforce. They would like to see the law changed to protect mental health by having mandatory training in Mental Health First Aid and this was debated in the Houses of Commons on Thursday 17th January. You can read the discussion that took place HERE.

Mental Health First Aid News

On the other side of this argument are some concerns about its evidence base, discussions concerning a ‘one size fits all’ approach, what the legal ramifications might be and even if it is made a legal requirement, will it still be taken seriously etc.

From our viewpoint we see Mental Health First Aid as an awareness, education and introductory course that encourages workplaces to begin that journey, one that needs to catch up with educational physical approaches. That journey will be different for everyone and it may be that is all that’s required for someone at the start of their career.

Physical First Aid

Further up the career ladder and for anyone who is aspiring to be a people leader or is involved in human resources then of course it makes sense to expand that knowledge and understanding. Just like courses beyond physical First Aid there are many different areas that people can focus on.

Previously working in Health and Social Care meant that I not only needed to undertake physical First Aid, I then went on to undertake Manual Handling, Food and Hygiene, Wheelchair Instruction, Dealing with Conflict and Aggression, Supervision Training, Groupwork Training and many others. I have continued my personal development and will always see myself and life as one long learning journey.

I’m sure where we can all agree is that significant improvement needs to be made to close the gap and value mental health equally with physical health. The workplace is an area that’s further behind in this than other areas of our society.

Some say that this is already covered under the current Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, regulations which were introduced to reinforce the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. By ensuring the health, safety and welfare of employees it is suggested that training staff so that they know what hazards and risks they may face, how to deal with them and any emergency procedures would cover both physical and mental health and wellbeing.

If that had been the case and the same focus had been given to both areas under these legislations, then the gap between physical and mental health would not be as high as it is today. Maybe a further tightening of these legislations might help with specific actions that needed to be taken. We also need to move away from ‘this is what’s recommended employers do’ to a more proactive approach.

There is little doubt that Mental Health First Aid has made a significant difference to the types of conversations we are all having in the workplace. The feedback we have received says it all and we recognise that other courses, workshops and learning needs to take place, which is why MHScot then work with employers and employees to look at the next steps that need to be taken beyond the introduction to mental health.

Written by MHScot Team Member, Catherine Eadie

Views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in our blogs belong solely to MHScot.