Mental health and mental health first aiders in the workplace

Mental health and mental health first aiders in the workplace
Mental health and mental health first aiders in the workplaceMental health and mental health first aiders in the workplace

What is mental health?

Good mental health is the ability to handle life's pressures and build positive relationships. It enables individuals to cope with life's ups and downs and make valuable contributions to society and within relationships and the workplace.

Prioritising mental health and doing whatever is necessary to keep it safe is now more important than ever. The world has seen significant changes in the last few years and these changes have had a negative effect on many peoples’ mental health.

The pandemic and isolating through lockdowns, loss of jobs or impacts on income, bereavement and the need to adapt to working from home have all had a major effect on mental health globally.

The UK is currently in the depths of a cost-of-living crisis which has led to an increase in financial stress. Stress, whilst not an illness it itself, can lead to a significant deterioration in mental health, as people struggle to pay their bills, feed their families and meet their financial commitments.

Improving mental health includes treating oneself with extra care, seeking professional help where necessary, speaking to someone trusted and engaging in recreational activities to reduce stress and bring comfort. An individual who takes proper care of their mental health can live a fuller life and better manage the ups and downs that go with it.

What are the impacts of poor mental health in the workplace?

Poor mental health still has a significant stigma attached to it in many workplaces. It can have a major impact in the workplace and amongst other employees. It’s important to recognise the symptoms and take steps to help those affected. Some of the effects are:

- Difficulty in concentrating and being less motivated which can lead to the inability to complete tasks

- An increase in absenteeism as employees may need time from work as they may feel unable to cope, or to manage their symptoms or get treatment

- ‘Presenteeism’ can increase. This is a drop in productivity from employees whilst in work because they’re dealing with the effects of poor mental health and unable to fulfil their responsibilities

- Employees may struggle to cope with their job demands. This could lead to higher staff turnover and a de-skilling within the workplace

- Increase in substance abuse. Those suffering from poor mental health may become reliant on substances, legal or not, to help them cope with their poor mental health

It’s therefore important for employers and co-workers to identify and recognise the symptoms of poor mental health and take steps to support those affected. These steps may include providing access to mental health resources, creating a positive work culture and reducing stigma. Doing so can create a healthier and more productive workplace as well as accelerated improvement in mental health for the affected employee(s).

What is a Mental Health First Aider (‘MHFA’)?

MHFAs are trained to provide basic assistance to individuals who are experiencing poor mental health. They may be colleagues, friends, family members, or members of the community who have completed the MHFA training program.

The role of MHFA is to:

- Provide initial support to individuals experiencing poor mental health

- Listen without judgment, and offer reassurance and practical assistance

- Help individuals identify the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and encourage them to seek professional help

- Provide information and resources about mental health and signpost them to available support services

- Encourage self-care and promote mental health wellness

How to become a MHFA

MHFA is a training programme that teaches people how to recognise the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and substance abuse. The training also teaches MHFAs to respond to the indicators and support the affected individual. The steps to becoming a certified MHFA are:

- Visit Mental Health First Aid England, Public Health Scotland, Mental Health Wales or Aware Northern Ireland depending on your location and use search tools to find nearby training courses suited to your needs for Mental Health First Aid

- Register for the course and pay the fee. As an indicator, MHFA England’s course fees are £325 per person. Some courses are available free of charge

- Attend all training sessions. Courses range from 12 – 16 hours, held over three to four sessions. Some training may be on consecutive days, whilst others are carried out over a two-week period. Some training courses may be in person, whilst others are available remotely via Zoom  

- Complete the final exam and demonstrate learnings from throughout the course  

- After completing all the requirements, trainees will receive certification as a Mental Health First Aider plus other resources such as workbooks, digital reference manual and access to MHFA support

What are the benefits of having MHFA?

MHFA training provides several benefits in the workplace, including:

Early identification and intervention: MHFAs are trained to identify signs of poor mental health and provide appropriate support and referral. Having a MHFA in the workplace can help employees get the help they need early on, which can lead to better outcomes and faster recovery

Reduced stigma: By having MHFAs in the workplace, employers can help reduce the stigma associated with poor mental health. This can help employees feel more comfortable talking about their mental health and seeking support when they need it

Improved employee wellbeing: MHFAs can provide emotional support and guidance to employees, which can improve their overall wellbeing. This can lead to better job satisfaction, improved performance and reduced absenteeism

Increased productivity: By addressing poor mental health early on, MHFAs can help employees maintain their productivity levels. This can lead to improved business outcomes and increased profitability for the organisation

Enhanced workplace culture: By promoting mental health awareness and support, employers can create a more positive workplace culture. This can lead to increased employee engagement and a better sense of community within the workplace

The importance of mental health within PayCaptain:

PayCaptain is a company that was launched to improve the financial wellbeing of employees across the UK. Better financial wellbeing is possible with effective payroll and innovative tools to help employees understand their payroll and manage their money better.

Financial health has a huge impact on the stress that an individual experiences, which has a direct correlation and knock-on effect to a person’s mental health wellbeing.

As part of PayCaptain’s commitment to its own employees, Operations Manager, Sarah Rayment, and Payroll Manager, Rebecca Davenport, have recently become certified Mental Health First Aiders. Sarah says:

"Our MHFA training was with Learning Curve Group and it was a great course that gave us insight in what to look out for and the impact that poor mental health has on workers. We’re now able to offer support and signposting to organisations that can help people who’s mental health is affected by what’s happening in the world today."

In summary, MHFAs in the workplace can have a very positive impact - creating a more supportive culture and leading to improved mental health and job satisfaction.

It’s important, particularly post-pandemic and in today’s economic climate, to identify changes in employees’ behaviour, productivity and overall wellness. By identifying changes, MHFAs may be able to determine if employees are experiencing poor mental health.

Earlier identification of poor mental health, as well as an organisation having trained resources within the business, helps the business to provide better support and assistance for a more positive outcome for its employees.