Mental Health First Aider: Does my business need one?

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Mental Health First Aider: Does my business need one?

Key learnings

  • Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) can offer support and guidance to anybody within your business who might be suffering with a mental health issue.   
  • They can promote emotional wellbeing and incorporate mental health into your company culture.   
  • While it is not currently legislation to have a MHFA in your business, doing so is recommended.   

Poor employee mental health costs UK employers around 17 million working days so looking after the mental health and emotional wellbeing of your employees will improve every aspect of your business, including its bottom line.  One way to do this is to appoint a Mental Health First Aider. Here, we look at what the role is and how it can benefit your business.  

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What is a Mental Health First Aider?  

A Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) is an individual within a business who has been trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and offer support to individuals who are suffering.   

MHFAs act as the first point of contact for colleagues who are experiencing mental health issues. They can offer support by listening to individuals’ situations and guiding them to the appropriate professional support.   


What are the responsibilities of a Mental Health First Aider?  

According to training providers Mental Health First Aid England, MHFAs should:  

  • Spot the early signs and symptoms of mental ill health   
  • Start a supportive conversation with a colleague who may be experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress   
  • Listen to the person non-judgementally    
  • Assess the risk of suicide or self-harm    
  • Encourage the person to access appropriate professional support or self-help strategies - this might include encouraging access to internal support systems such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) or in-house counselling services    
  • Escalate to the appropriate emergency services if necessary but maintain confidentiality as appropriate   
  • Protect themselves while performing their role as an MHFA  

It’s important to note that although training is required, MHFAs are not clinical professionals. They can offer support but should not provide a clinical diagnosis.    


How your business would benefit from a Mental Health First Aider 

Around one in four people a year experience a mental health issue. Mental health is as important as physical health, and considering the average employee spends most of their waking life at work, emotional wellbeing must be supported in the workplace.   

Good employee wellbeing is also great for business – it reduces things like high staff turnover, sickness and absenteeism, while promoting employee engagement, productivity and innovation.   

MHFAs can provide critical early intervention and help people access support when they most need it. MHFAs can also have a significant impact on your company culture. MHFAs act as mental health advocates, encouraging discussions around mental health and wellbeing, which can help eradicate harmful stigmas and create an environment of openness and acceptance.   

The number of MHFAs you appoint will depend on the size of your workforce. St. Johns Ambulance advises businesses have an equal number of mental health first aiders as they do physical first aiders.   


How to appoint a Mental Health First Aider 

Though anybody in your business can become a MHFA, it’s important that you select somebody who you think is suitable for the role.   

Consider people who:   

  • Have a desire to learn more about mental health   
  • Would be confident giving support when required to do so   
  • Will be provided with the necessary time to complete training and carry out their role  
  • Possibly have line management responsibilities  

Mental Health First Aid England is a social enterprise that offers a range of internationally recognised training courses tailored to meet the needs of individual businesses.   

They work with businesses to train MHFAs in a way that complements and enhances mental health strategies already in place. If your business doesn’t have a strategy, Mental Health First Aid England will work with you to establish one.   

Next steps...

  • Think about how a MHFA might support your business’s mental health strategy and consider who might be well suited for the role.   
  • Find out more about the impact MHFAs can have by reading these case studies.   
  • Go to Mental Health First Aid England to explore the different training courses they offer.