Since 1981, it has been a legal requirement for a workplace to have some form of first aid provision, in case anyone is injured or is taken ill at work. As a minimum, this will often take the form of a first aid kit in the office, and perhaps a First Aider who has been trained to administer first aid when needed. This is important for the physical health of employees, but unfortunately it doesn’t take into account any potential issues related to mental health.
Mental illness is the single largest source of burden of disease in the UK, based on prevalence, persistence and breadth of impact – the total cost of mental ill health on the economy is estimated at £70-100 billion per year, and 17.5 million working days were lost due to mental illness in 2018, so it makes good business sense to take mental wellbeing seriously.
1 in 4 people in England are diagnosed with mental health issues. As everyone faces challenges and stresses in both their professional and personal lives, there is a significant possibility of someone needing help in the workplace in relation to their mental health, not just their physical health.
I took the 2-day Mental Health First Aid course, developed by MHFA England and run by CPSL Mind, which prepares the first aider on how to assist in a mental health crisis at work. The aims of the training are similar to that of a traditional First Aider, with a few specific goals associated with mental health:
- To preserve life
- To prevent mental health issues from getting worse
- To promote recovery
- To provide comfort
- To raise awareness of mental health issues
- To reduce stigma and discrimination
- To improve wellbeing
Using the steps that I learned in my training, I now have the confidence to approach, assess and assist someone at work that may be dealing with issues related to their mental wellbeing. I will listen non-judgementally, offer support, and encourage someone to seek out professional help if needed.
Whilst I’m not a trained therapist or GP, and won’t replace the role of a professional mental health care provider, I can give support at a crucial moment when one of my colleagues may need it most.
It’s great that Aajogo is ahead of the curve in recognising how valuable mental health support in the workplace can be. I feel honoured to be able to support my teammates in this way, giving them the reassurance that there is someone available to help if or when a mental health issue at work arises.