What do mental health first aiders do?

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Health Assured team

07 November 2019

It isn’t uncommon for your staff to experience issues relating to their mental health. Many things can contribute to this; it could be due to work-related issues (the environment, workload, or relationship with colleagues) or problems in their personal lives.

Whatever the cause, these issues can have long-lasting effects on the sufferers, with the possibility of worsening conditions when they aren’t addressed.

In previous blog posts, we’ve defined mental health first aid (MHFA) and highlighted its importance to the workforce.

This piece focuses on the role of a mental health first aider. In it, we’ll highlight their responsibilities and the advantages of having one in your business.


What is a mental health first aider?

Just like physical first aid, a qualified mental health first aider can be invaluable when supporting employees experiencing mental health issues at work. While they can’t provide therapy, they can support staff members and help to make their work-life easier.

They’re trained to spot the signs and symptoms of ill mental health and offer appropriate support. Signs of potential issues include:

  • Reduced concentration.
  • Increased absences.
  • Irritability or short temper and aggression.
  • Inability to make decisions and loss of confidence.
  • Being withdrawn and avoiding social activities and situations.
  • Weight loss or weight gain.
  • Reduced productivity, increased errors, forgetting tasks etc.


What do mental health first aiders do?

They offer various practical methods for dealing with mental health conditions.

While mental health first aiders don’t offer long-term support, they do provide immediate support and information that can help manage the signs of ill mental health. Their duties include:

  • Identifying early signs.
  • Non-judgemental listening.
  • Helping to prevent someone from hurting themselves or others.
  • Helping to stop mental ill health from getting worse.
  • Helping someone recover faster.
  • Guiding someone towards the right support including an EAP and other counselling services.
  • Reducing the stigma of mental health problems.


Why have mental health first aiders?

Although the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) isn’t able to say whether MHFA training is effective in a workplace setting, it states there’s consistent evidence suggesting it raises awareness of mental health conditions.

While it isn’t compulsory to have mental health first aiders at work, it does bring with it many advantages. First of which is simply raising the conversation around mental health.

Other advantages include:

  • Empowering employees to help colleagues having a hard time.
  • Helping to keep the workplace safe.
  • Creating an environment of openness.

Offering this training shows your staff that you’re open to talking about mental health and encourages them to join the conversation. This, as well as creating a positive culture around mental health also reduces the stigma surrounding it.

If you’re wondering, “how many mental health first aiders do I need?” there’s no right number for an organisation. It’ll depend on a variety of factors including the size and nature of your business. Ideally, you’ll want the same number of mental health first aiders as you do medical first aiders.

Why become a mental health first aider

As well as increasing awareness, it teaches individuals to recognise the warning signs of ill mental health and take steps to guide them to the appropriate support.

Some employees may decide to go take this course out of altruism while others may use it as a career advancement opportunity.

But most importantly of all, they do it to gain the practical skills needed to identify triggers and the confidence to address them.


Expert support

If you would like further information regarding MHFA, please contact Health Assured on 0844 892 2493.

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