Shouldn’t every work place should have a mental health first aider? Here’s why we think they are essential.

In 2018, Thames Water recorded five mental health first aid interventions for every physical first aid intervention.

Chief Health, Safety and Security Officer, Karl Simons, said: “Mental health first aiders at Thames Water have been a catalyst for engagement, providing our employees with the confidence to come forward and seek support at their time of need.”

With mental health emergencies at work now appearing more prevalent than physical ones; why do we place so much emphasis on physical first aid and not enough on the mental aspect?

Why do we need mental health first aiders?

Mental health first aid trains your employees to spot the signs of when someone may be in mental and emotional distress and work with them to get the help they need, potentially avoiding or limiting sickness and absences in the process.

Unfortunately, some organisations remain unconvinced of the true impact of mental ill health and are ignoring the financial and physical benefits of training mental health first aiders in the workplace.

We know that we are slightly biased. We are a charity that supports a large number of people with mental ill health and we are providers of mental health training in Lancashire; we have also trained over 50% of our own team in mental health first aid. Not just for the benefits it has for our workplace, but for the skills it gives to our team in relation to their home lives too.

But you don’t have to take our word for it; back in 2012, the Department of Health called for mental health to be taken just as seriously as physical health and stated that all workplaces should ensure an employee is trained in mental health first aid. Yes, that was eight years ago.

So where are we now? Does your workplace have a mental health first aider? Are you taking your employees’ mental health as seriously as physical health? 

Where are we?

The statistics show us that some businesses are well ahead of the curve; combined, the FTSE 100 companies have trained over 10,000 mental health first aiders alone. The national training body, Mental Health First Aid England, who we work with to deliver mental health first aid training in Lancashire, stated that last year 140,000 people were trained between 2018 and 2019 – the most ever in one single year. This included a wide range of professions, from hairdressers to employees across global institutions.

In total, almost half a million people in Britain have now attended a mental health first aid training course.

Number of mental health first aiders trained per year since 2009:

How many first aiders should a business have?

Every workplace needs a mental health first aider, and depending on the size of your company, even one per office or team. Think about your physical first aiders – how many do you have? How much do you spend on training them? How many posters do you have stating the names of people who are there for others in physical distress?

As long as every employee in your organisation has access to someone they can go to for support; there really is no limit on how many people you train in mental health first aid.

“Every one of our 14,000 employees has access to mental health support and we are proud to have the same number of Mental Health First Aiders across our business as we do physical health first aiders.” – Virgin

The Facts

The Legal Bit

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees because of a mental or physical disability. And, as an employer, you have a legal duty to care for the health and wellbeing of any employee whilst they are at work.

Marie Claire McLaughlin vs Charles Hurst Limited

A woman who asked her employer to reduce her working hours because of her mental health was awarded more than £11,000 in this discrimination case.

It was found that the firm had discriminated against the claimant because it took the company too long to process her request for flexible working.

In this article from the Telegraph from 2019, it was stated that workplace stress is causing an unprecedented rise in disability discrimination cases, which rose by 37% in just 12 months.

“Employment lawyers told The Telegraph that the rise may be driven by an increased willingness of individuals to bring claims related to mental health issues.”

So to answer the question, should my business have a mental health first aider? The obvious answer is yes, and depending on the size and nature of your business, probably even more.

Book our upcoming Adults Mental Health First Aid Training course in Burnley online now.

If you wish to speak to us about workplace mental health training in your area or business; contact us on 0300 323 0965. We offer adults and children’s mental health first aid training courses across Accrington, Burnley, Blackburn and Lancashire.