Mental Health First Aid training is becoming more common. Up to now it has largely been accessed by large workplaces and public sector employers.
But what about small and medium sized businesses? Is there a need to send someone on a Mental health First Aid training course?
It’s not a particularly easy question to answer, and the HSE now say:
‘Following your employers’ first aid needs assessment; you might decide that it will be beneficial to have personnel trained to identify and understand symptoms and able to support someone who might be experiencing a mental health issue.
You should consider ways to manage mental ill health in your workplace which are appropriate for your business, such as providing information or training for managers and employees, employing occupational health professionals, appointing mental health trained first aiders and implementing employee support programmes…’
Our training team find that on first aid courses, there is always huge interest when we talk about panic attacks – and as the years go on, delegates are more and more comfortable to talk about their own experiences because of reduced stigma.
With 1 in 4 people having experienced some form of mental health problem each year, it could be argued that the chances of someone experiencing a mental health problem or crisis in the workplace is higher than many physical illnesses or accidents. That’s why Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England are on a mission to train 1 in 10 people in Mental Health First Aid.
Similar to if someone has a heart condition that may go unnoticed until a heart attack, someone may have a mental health condition that is hidden until someone has a crisis, harms or makes threat to harm themselves or others, or reacts to something in an unexpected way at an unexpected time. Many workplaces would feel unprepared to deal with such an emergency.
Our recommendation, as suggested by the HSE, is that workplaces assess their need to provide physical first aiders in the same way as mental health first aiders. This is based on the number of employees on site, and the risks employees are exposed to.
We would suggest that as a starting point, any organisation that needs a ‘physical first aider’ trained to the level of a First Aid at Work 3 day course, may wish to consider also training a Mental Health First Aider.
The bottom line: Workplaces have a statutory need to provide assistance to anyone that becomes ill or injured in the workplace, and with 1 in 4 people experiencing mental health problems, it is good practice to employers to assess their need to provide Mental Health First Aid Training