Over recent times there has been a significant growth in awareness around the issue of mental health in the workplace. Organisations will often have specific measures in place to safeguard against the existence of mental ill health of its workforce given the impact this can have on absenteeism and productivity.
Whilst health and safety laws address the need for organisations to provide a physical first aider, there is currently no legislation which addresses the need for a similar support system for staff experiencing mental health issues. The recent campaign launched online has called for the law to be amended, making it a mandatory requirement for organisations to appoint a mental health first aider.
Speaking on the matter Ms Jodie Hill, who is responsible for launching the first aider campaign, has stated “We need to have a more open mind about mental health. If we can get support in place from the top then we can start to do something about this.”.
Figures show there has been a steady growth in courses offering mental health first aid qualifications, with estimates from Mental Health First Aid England suggesting over two million people have been trained worldwide. The UK government has announced its own plans to train over 1 million people in the UK in mental health first aid skills and recent advertisements have seen organisations, including Ford Motors, lend their support to this initiative.
The launch of this Mental Health First Aider campaign coincides with the upcoming mental health awareness week. This year’s annual awareness drive, which will run from 14-20 May, will see a particular focus on managing stress in the workplace. Efforts will be made to educate organisations on spotting the signs of stress as well as the appropriate techniques to protect and manage employees suffering from this particular form of mental ill health.
Whilst it does not appear the need for a mental health first aider is going to become mandatory any time soon organisations are advised to consider the benefits. Given that recent estimates from Deloitte show that poor mental health costs UK employers £33bn-£42bn each year, employers would be wise to take advantage of any available resource which will help support employees suffering from mental health issues in the workplace.