The Role of Mental Health First Aid in the Business World

Mental illness is responsible for 12% of all UK sick days, and the scourge has more to do with workplace health than you might think. Studies suggest that job strain is tightly linked to several common mental illnesses, so psychiatric wellness is finally being absorbed into occupational health infrastructure throughout the world. Some countries are even starting to write the role into their law books.

The effects might influence your profits more than you think.

Recent research suggests that eliminating job strain can heal 14% of mental illness cases. The workplace can be as much of a cure as it is a cause, though, so the modern business has a duty to build a positive ecosystem.

Mental health challenges cost businesses £165 billion every year, so there’s no rationality in the pursuit of profit over staff welfare. That knowledge does little to equip business leaders with the skills they need to resolve the problem, though.

That’s where Health and Safety consultations and training step in. They teach entrepreneurs and HR managers how to use occupational health and environmental management to boost employees’ mental wellness.


Getting to Know Health and Safety Law

Health and safety compliance falls under the Health and Safety of Work Act of 1974. The law requires employers to:

  • Stay in touch with safety representative
  • Supply the equipment needed to boost health and safety
  • Create a safe working environment
  • Make sure staff can access welfare provisions
  • Conduct and respond to risk assessments
  • Appoint a competent person to monitor safety in the workplace
  • Track reportable incidents related to occupational illnesses
  • Offer daily rest periods and six-hourly breaks
  • Not exceed the maximum work week of 48 hours unless the employee in question agrees to it in writing.

Until recently, most of these regulations have only applied to physiological illnesses and injuries. However, the boundary between physical and mental health is becoming thinner by the day. Researchers have found that many psychiatric illnesses and mood disorders are rooted in physiology, so health and safety legislation is increasingly being applied to mental health. Depression has been linked to brain inflammation and depleted neurotransmitters. Anxiety disorders are connected to parathyroid conditions. Trauma coincides with a compromised hippocampus. These discoveries have changed the way lawmakers think about occupational health.

Vocational rehabilitation models can make a significant dent in global suicides. For that reason, The World Health Organisation is pushing for stronger mental health policies and increased awareness, largely because the workplace can be a powerful preventative environment. Beyond policy, though, what can the average employer do to improve their own work environment?

Mental health first aid

Mental Health First Aid

Fourteen per cent of all workers experience mental health problems every year, but those numbers climb even higher in younger employees. The problem isn’t going to go away on its own. Ignoring it means accepting the damage, and no employer can afford the resultant losses.

The problem has reached pandemic proportions, but mental health first aid courses are up to the challenge. They equip employers with the skills and knowledge they need to address psychiatric health and addictions. Employees can be a powerful asset here, so this qualification also gives teams the awareness they need to support wellness in the workplace. A QA Level Three Award in Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace is now recognised throughout the UK. It confronts the problem in three ways by:

  • Boosting awareness
  • Improving personal support skills
  • Teaching employers how to guide sufferers to the appropriate support.

The course we offer at Common Sense Safety Solutions is run by a BABCP Accredited Psychotherapist with 30 years’ experience and is tailored towards a holistic group of human assets, including team leaders, supervisors, employees, and dedicated first aid staff. It educates participants about the most common psychiatric illnesses, including:

  • Burnout
  • Anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and depression
  • Eating disorders and self-harm
  • Phobias
  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder


The Practical Angle of Mental Health First Aid

Mental health first aid is an intensely practical approach. It promotes support according to the highest treatment efficacies, but it never asks employers to take on the role of therapist.  Unqualified treatment can be more harmful than no treatment, so the program asks your team to become a bridge to a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist. It trains employers to navigate existing support structures, both on a local and national level. In the simplest terms, it teaches you to recognise mental illness, create procedures to support it, and find qualified help.

Just as schools provide an excellent infrastructure for vaccine programs and sex education, workplaces provide the perfect biome for supporting the growing mental health crisis. Fortunately, The World Health Organisation has called for all employers to participate in a global drive towards better health.


Building Safety Policies

If your team has five or more members, you’re legally required to have a written health and safety policy. This includes a statement of intent and an outline of every team member’s responsibilities. That creates the perfect structure for a new mental health policy. Employers can promote better mental wellbeing through:

  • Social contact
  • Time structure
  • Regular activities and routines
  • Social identity
  • Collective purpose.

Productivity is an inherent part of mental wellbeing, but so are equitable pay and fair labour practices. There are excellent reasons why the Googles of the world are spending millions on nap pods and office rollercoasters.

Happiness and productivity are inherently linked, and the best way to leverage that connection is with a comprehensive mental health policy. It should include mental health detractors like job insecurity, hostile office conditions, unsatisfactory workloads, and excessive pressure. Your draft should also prevent distress, so it’s advisable to create policies for discrimination, communication breakdowns, disability leave, and flexible work hours. Voluntary assistance programs and hotlines can also go a long way towards promoting happier workers. They’re the first aid kits of the psychiatry world, and they save lives.

Mental health problems demand a common-sense approach to occupational health. It’s time for businesses to target the problem one policy, one skill, one decision at a time. The profits will follow but, more importantly, your work environment will become exponentially more enjoyable.

If you’d like to learn more about the Mental Health First Aid Course we offer, please get in touch.