It seems, at long last, that we are finally getting somewhere with regard to the provision of mental ill health first aid.
Two years ago, Norman Lamb MP raised an early day motion in the House of Commons expressing concern that that current first aid legislation fails to make adequate provision for mental ill health.
Since then, various sectors within UK PLC have taken up the challenge and industry best practice schemes have sprung up and are being implemented.
The movement took something of a setback earlier this year after HSE published the results of their “rapid scoping evidence review to determine the impact, influence and application of MHFA training in workplaces”. The message that came out from this was misunderstood in some quarters with some people suggesting that the role is merely a reactive resource or a way to tick off employer’s responsibilities.
To be clear, the HSE study found that there is a lack of evidence to determine whether the provision of mental health first aiders has been effective in the workplace. Whilst the introduction of mental health first aiders certainly led to “an increase in awareness amongst employees”, the report found that there is no evidence yet that there had been “sustained actions in those trained, or that it has improved the wider management of mental ill-health”.
So, it was pleasing to see the latest advice on the HSE website published earlier this month recognises the benefits employers may gain from having “personnel trained to identify and understand symptoms and able to support someone who might be experiencing a mental health issue”.
Clearly the provision of first aid alone is not enough to challenge the serious effect mental ill health is having in the UK and globally.
Employers need to take steps to reduce the causes of workplace stress, from the design of work through to the provision of support mechanisms.
They should consider other ways to reduce the likelihood of mental ill health and to support the well being of their employees, whether that be training for managers, the appointment of occupational health experts or investing in employee support programmes.
At the workface, employees need to understand that they will receive the help they need and not be discriminated against should they seek assistance.
Deciding on who could or should take on the role will need careful consideration, as will clearly defining their role.
There is plenty to think about and it is important to have a strategy in place. Mental health should not just be a campaign or initiative, instead it should form part of your culture the same way that accident prevention and good practice do. This isn’t a ‘nice to have’ or ‘flavour of the month’, the impact of mental ill health will be felt throughout an organisation.
THSP supports Mental Health.If you need any advice please talk to our consultants.