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Parliament to Debate Mental Health First Aid

BY Miranda Hughes
Health & Safety

Statistics from the Department of Work and Pensions indicate that around 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem lose their jobs each year. Poor mental health is also estimated to cost the UK economy between £74 billion and £99 billion per year. An independent review of the data found that the cost to employers is between £33 billion and £42 billion per year. 

In November of last year, the Health and Safety Executive updated their guidance to employers about First Aid in the workplace, adding a section on mental health. This encourages employers to consider having staff trained in mental health awareness, including MHFA. However, mental health campaigners, including the ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ campaign, want the Government to go further.

On 17 January 2019, there will be a Backbench Business debate in Parliament on mental health first aid in the workplace. Supported by a cross-party trio of MPS, the debate will ask the Government to make good on their manifesto pledge to place mental first aid on an equal footing to physical first aid in the workplace.  MFHA teaches people how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue. It also allows people to develop their ability to listen, reassure and respond to someone experiencing a mental health crisis and may allow them to prevent the crisis altogether.

The Scottish Government has its own 10-year Mental Health strategy aimed at improving uptake of and access to services aimed at improving mental health in the workplace. Whether employers will provide access to Scottish MHFA training will, for now, remain at their discretion. However, this could well change if the legislation is amended south of the border.  

Whilst MFHA is not yet mandatory, many employers across the UK are choosing to invest in the training course and with good reason. MHFA England found that the skills developed on courses are used by up to 88% of Mental Health First Aiders if they encounter someone experiencing mental ill health after attending the course.  They also found that the courses had improved attitudes towards mental health issues, reducing stigma and promoting empathetic approaches.

Here at Law At Work we have an accredited trainer who can deliver NHS certified Scottish MHFA training. The course aims to give delegates the opportunity to develop skills as a mental health first aider and has been developed by the NHS training team. The course reflects best practice and learnings across a wide range of government and third sector organisations and can be utilised in any business. If this is something you think might benefit your organisation, get in touch today for further details.

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