Supporting your people – mental health first aiders at work

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In the latest UK200Group blog post, Catharine Geddes, Partner at Lester Aldridge discusses the importance of prioritising mental health at work

Catharine Geddes
It seems that the most talked about topic at the moment (other than Brexit of course!) is currently mental health. Historically there has been a lot of stigma attached to poor mental health and it was often perceived that it should not be talked about.

Recent statistics show that 1 in 4 of the UK workforce has been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime. The biggest rises have been seen in anxiety and depression, particularly among younger women and older men.

Why are people becoming more aware of mental health?

Is it down to the increasing use of social media? Celebrities raising awareness? Campaigns such as #itsoktonotbeok? Whatever the reason behind it, we are more aware. As we become more aware, employers begin to realise the impact that poor mental health has on their employees and in turn, their wellbeing and productivity.

Government employment mental health review

At the beginning of 2017, the Prime Minister requested an independent review into how employers can better support the health of all people currently in employment including those with mental health problems or poor well-being to remain in and thrive through work.

Various recommendations were made for employers in the outcome of the review (including:

•Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
•Develop mental health awareness among employees
•Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees
are struggling
•Provide employees with good working conditions
•Promote effective people management
•Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

In 2018, the Health and Safety Executive recognised the recommendations and enhanced their first aid guidance to include mental health.

Tips for implementing Mental Health First Aiders into your business

One way in which employers can support their workforce when it comes to mental health is by introducing Mental Health First Aiders.

Mental Health First Aiders are taught how to spot the symptoms of mental ill health and provide help on a first aid basis.

Employers have certain responsibilities to their workforce and are liable for the actions of employees in certain circumstances. It’s therefore important to set clear boundaries and guidelines for MHFAs to be effectively implemented within your organisation.

Some top tips:

•Use an application framework to appoint MHFAs.
•Ensure you use a recognised training provider for courses.
•Check your company’s insurance policies. You may need to let them know you have MHFAs in
•Implement effective policies. Set clear expectations and boundaries for MHFAs. These could be
extended to include physical, financial and emotional wellbeing.
•Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.
•Ensure a healthy work life balance.

How can the investment of Mental Health Aiders help your business?

The implementation of MHFAs has proven to positively impact a business in a wide variety of ways:

•Cut sickness absence
•Retain skills by reducing staff turnover
•Reduce presenteeism
•Demonstrate commitment to CSR
•Decrease likelihood of grievance and discrimination claims
•Ensure compliance with legislation
•Create a healthier workplace
•Improve staff morale
•Provide better customer service
•Increase engagement and commitment from staff
•Make your workplace a great place to work!

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

Mental Health Awareness Week Mental Health Awareness Week takes place in the UK between 13th and 19th May this year. Now is a good time for your organisation to start planning how you can raise awareness and facilitate support within your workforce.

Need further advice?

If you would like advice and assistance about the role of MHFAs, your obligations towards employees who are experiencing mental health issues, or help in dealing with mental health-related absence, performance or capability issues, please do not hesitate to contact Catharine Geddes Catharine Geddes, Partner at Lester Aldridge, on or 01202 786148.

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