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Guest blog by Claire Sherwood

Mental Health First Aider…whatever next… But this could be the most important person in your organisation…a person, for someone who is suffering, to could go to when they feel there is no one else they can turn too…

According to the Mental Health Foundation's 2018 study (undertaken by YouGov, with a sample size of 4,619 respondents – makes it the largest known study of stress level in the UK) found that in the last year, 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope and 37% of adults stated when feeling stressed they felt lonely as a result. Of course, mental ill health is not just bought on by stress, there are many other elements for mental ill health…

So how can a Mental Health First Aider help…

This just isn’t someone who is plucked from the workforce and who is open to listening to people’s problems.  Mental Health first aiders will embark on a two day Mental Health First Aid training course to help them recognise mental health issues in others, understand, how to approach and how to deal with the given situation. The course won’t teach you to be a therapist, but it will teach you how to listen, reassure and respond and potentially stop a crisis from happening. To recognise warning signs of mental ill health and instil confidence to approach and support. It will also give you the tools of how to support someone in their ongoing journey which could include self-help books or websites, accessing therapy services through their GP, support groups, and more.

Mental ill health problems can show themselves in a variety of ways with differing symptoms and signs. At work, a person might show themselves as being more tired than usual, they could make uncharacteristic mistakes, find it hard to motivate themselves, timekeeping might slip, or they may show less patience with people. This is not an exhaustive list and bear in mind that some people are very good at masking their mental ill health.

Awareness of mental ill health is increasing, but we still face a world where people with mental health problems face discrimination, and can face challenges getting the help they need, especially in the workplace where they feel if they admit to it, everyone will think they are unable to do their job. Many people who experience distress try to keep their feelings hidden because they are afraid of other people’s responses. So, having a dedicated MHFA can only be a positive thing – for individuals and your company as a whole.

Fear of discrimination and feelings of shame are among the top reasons people give for not telling their colleagues about their mental ill health problems.

When we create workplace cultures where people can be themselves, it is easier for people to speak about mental ill health concerns without fear, and easier for them to reach out for help when they need it. Even so, the decision to disclose distress at work is not one people take lightly.

There are lots of big companies leading the way when it comes to mental health first aiders, however it’s just as important to implement different support systems into smaller companies too.

Have a look at what LV= are doing in this space…

It’s currently not compulsory for employers to have members of staff trained in mental health first aid (MHFA), but that may soon change thanks to a public petition which has received 200,000 signatures, cross-party support from over 60 MPs and backing from over 50 UK businesses.

On 17 January, the issue was debated in parliament. This came just months after HSE – Britain’s independent regulator for work-related health – released guidance on MHFA for the