Mental Health Illness in the Workplace

A recent study by the Guardian shows a substantial increase in response to a sharp rise in people who are suffering from mental illness in the workplace.

The Guardian claims that just under half a million people in Britain have been through a mental health first aid training programme, which equates to approximately one in every 100 adults.

FTSE 100 organisations alone have trained over 10,000 members of staff, with other big names such as the BBC, Government departments and even smaller organisations now offering a MHFA to their employees.

Chief executive of Mental Health First Aid England, Simon Blake, notes that ‘training courses are as likely to have someone from a shop in Doncaster as from a city firm’.

The role of a mental health first aider (MHFA) is to be the first point of contact for any employee who is experiencing a mental health issue or some form of emotional distress. MHFAs volunteer to undertake the role and, usually, complete a two-day training session. The aim is not for them to be counsellors or psychologists; they are simply supposed to listen and signpost services, with the aim of tackling poor mental health within an organisation. Imogen Trumpet, who completed the course, outlines that her role as a MHFA is to ‘encourage [individuals] to seek the appropriate professional help’.

Despite the significant increase, concern has previously been raised about how much impact assistance from MHFAs actually has. Last year, the Health and Safety Executive stated that there was ‘limited evidence that MHFA training leads to sustained improvement in the ability of those trained to help colleagues experiencing mental ill health’.

Blake does agree that MHFAs alone are not enough to completely transform the psychological wellbeing of an organisation, outlining that ‘we need to ensure prevention, early intervention’ and that ‘mental health first aid works best in an organisation that has started thinking of things like this’. To this end, some organisations use first aider programmes as part of a bigger strategy to tackle poor mental health, such as offering employees the use of an Employee Assistance Programme.

Organisations do not have to provide MHFAs but, regardless of this, they should remember the seriously detrimental impact that poor mental health can have on their workforce and the business as a whole. Mental illness can result in decreased productivity, individuals having to take long periods of time away from work or, potentially, leaving their role entirely.

By actively encouraging the strong mental health of its employees, organisations can reduce turnover, see higher levels of output and create a strong external reputation that can attract additional, skilled individuals.

The AP Partnership can provide a support for you and your staff’s mental health. To begin, we have provided a useful checklist that you can download here. In addition, we also provide an E-Learning course on Mental Health Awareness.

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