An MP has proposed that Mental Health First Aid courses should be mandatory in the workplace.

Conservation MP Dean Russell proposed a new law to parliament yesterday (25 January 2023) suggesting that making Mental Health First Aid a legal requirement will mean more people will be able to spot the early signs of someone dealing with a mental health crisis. He also argued this could potentially save lives. Mr Russell said to his fellow MPs:

“We spend so much time in the workplace, yet we cannot always be ourselves when we are there. It can be hard to show our true face when times are tough because we aim, as always, to be professional. But people do not wear bandages to show where they have anxiety and depression. Many learn to hide their pain in fear of damaging their careers.”

The new law was presented as a Ten Minute Rule Bill. These sorts of proposals do not often become laws. However they do help to pull focus and raise awareness and discussion of topics MPs want to focus on.

“Mental health first aiders, I must be clear, are not expected to be counsellors or psychologists, but just like physical first aiders, who are not expected to be paramedics or surgeons, this bill will simply mean workers have someone to signpost them to the support and help they need when they need it.”

Mr Russell, an MP for Watford, argued that making it a legal requirement for employers to provide mental health first aid training is a popular idea generally. Over 200,000 people have signed a petition organised by the Where’s Your Head At? campaign.

Although the training would need to be paid for by employers, in the year 2021 to 2022, stress depression and anxiety were the causes of half the work-related ill health cases meaning approximately 17 million days of work were missed as a result.

So what is mental health first aid?

Mental health first aid is a training programme, accredited, to qualify participants as a mental health first aider at work.

Workplaces have to have qualified medical first aiders to help with CPR or first aid, and so mental health first aid is a lot like that but for mental health of colleagues. If someone presents in a distressed state, with a mental health challenge or crisis, mental health first aiders have more tools at their disposal to help someone in that situation and that moment.

Mental health first aid courses aim to give confidence in talking about, listening to and understanding someone with mental health conditions or mental health challenges.

The courses aim to help people improve their understanding and teach them how to responsibly and safely identify and address mental health problems in colleagues.

Expert guidance and training to support mental health in the workplace and elsewhere is offered on courses like those provided by Mental Health First Aid England.

They can be online or in person. Many of the courses are offered now online.

Courses aim to ensure people can talk more openly and confidently about mental health and know how to find support when needed.

Mental health first aid encourages the ability to detect early signs of mental health challenges and helps train people to understand what to look out for in someone’s performance, behaviour and attendance, appearance and presentation, communication and more, all in a workplace context.

Courses also help delegates understand how to intervene in mental health crisis and how to talk to someone experiencing mental health distress.

Training also provides deeper understanding of the signs and symptoms of more commonly diagnosed conditions such as anxiety disorder, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and substance abuse addictions.

Participants develop a greater knowledge of what mental health and well-being is, what helps contribute to managing mental health generally. This can include the 5 ways to well-being.

Statistics are offered to help deepen knowledge of the mental health landscape we face in the UK right now.

Subsidised training is offered by Mental Health First Aid England to the NHS, frontline worker supporting organisations and Black-led organisations

Find out more by visiting Mental Health First Aid England’s website.

The post Mental Health First Aid: What Is It? first appeared on MQ Mental Health Research.

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