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Mental Health First Aiders - what are they and why do you need them?

What are Mental Health First Aiders? Why are they important?

“What is a Mental Health First Aider?”, “Why are they important?” one might ask. Well, in a society where 1 in 4 people have mental ill-health, they are far more useful and important than you may think.

Physical First Aiders are a workplace requirement for all businesses. The amount of employees in your organisation and the level of risk in your workplace will determine how many first aiders you need. Yet there is currently no legal requirement for Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) in the workplace… but is there an ethical one?

At iHasco we believe that mental wellbeing is just as important as physical wellbeing. It’s that simple. That’s why we have committed to offering training to any staff member who wishes to become a Mental Health First Aider, with 10% of our iHasco team currently qualified to take on this role.

What is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental Health First Aid began in Australia but it has now spread to over 27 countries, including the UK. MHFA is both preventative and proactive. It’s a practical, ethical and productive way for employers to invest in the mental and emotional health of their staff - which reaps benefits for everyone.

It encourages employees to lessen the stigma that still surrounds mental health and encourages people to speak about emotional matters and mental struggles more openly and positively in the workplace.

What do MHFAs do?

Generally, the purpose of a MHFA is to be a point of contact for employees if they are experiencing emotional distress or suffering in silence with mental health problems, such as stress, anxiety or depression, for example.

Mental Health First Aiders are trained to listen. They are trained to spot the early signs of mental ill-health in others. They are taught to confidently signpost someone to appropriate support, both internal and external, and they are equipped to deal with emergencies too - such as psychosis, thoughts of suicide, or attempted suicide.

It is important to note however - that MHFAs are not qualified therapists/counsellors/psychiatrists. They cannot advise, but they can listen and offer support options. They are trained to:

  • Maintain confidentiality (unless someone’s physical safety or life is at risk)
  • Spot early signs of mental ill-health
  • Assess the risk of self-harm or suicide
  • Listen to what people are saying without judgement
  • Know when to contact the emergency services (if it’s required)
  • Care for their own physical safety and mental wellbeing
  • Know how to start a conversation with someone who may be experiencing emotional or mental ill-health
  • Encourage people to use additional support that’s available, including internal and external support systems
  • Complete critical incident documents where necessary

Who should go on a Mental Health First Aid Course?

MHFA England are aiming to “train 1 in 10 of the population” - which is the proportion of MHFAs currently trained at iHasco. The training is open to anyone - so really it’s a case of the more the merrier. Employers may want to consider the following before sending staff on the course:

  • Do the individuals want to learn about mental health and help others with theirs?
  • Will they be able to maintain the role alongside their current role?

MHFA England offer a comprehensive Mental Health First Aid 2-day course, a MHFA Champions 1-day course and a Mental Health Aware half day course

How to promote your Mental Health First Aid

As a part of introducing new employees to the company, it is a good idea to make all employees aware of who both the physical and mental first aiders are. Each company may promote and approach the services provided by their MHFA differently. Companies can consider ensuring that Mental Health First Aiders:

  • Are introduced to new staff when they join
  • Send periodic email reminders to the team to remind them of the service
  • Have their name, photo, location and availability on a shared drive/intranet or company notice board

As a Mental Health First Aider, I am here to help lighten any mental or emotional loads someone may be carrying by actively listening and signposting them to further help if they need or want it - sometimes providing a listening ear is all that is required. It is an incredibly rewarding role, and I get a huge sense of satisfaction being able to support and help someone. Overall, since iHasco introduced MHFAs, everyone in the organisation has benefitted from the change in conversations and attitude surrounding mental health. It has also provided a more supportive and open company culture, where we want to look after each other within the workplace.

Amanda Lowndes, Head of Support and MHFA

Our Training

We offer 9 courses as part of our Mental Health & Wellbeing bundle:

By providing this training, we hope that we can play our part in raising awareness for both employees and employers on understanding, recognising and managing mental ill health as well as maintaining and celebrating good mental health and wellbeing!

Claim your free, no-obligation trial to any of these eLearning courses today! Alternatively, you can request a bespoke quote and a member of our team will be in touch to discuss your training requirements!

Mental Health and Wellbeing Courses