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How mental health first aid can enhance your organisation

MHFA enhances organisations by supporting employees, improving productivity, reducing absences, and promoting well-being and compliance with workplace health legislation.
Man having therapeutic session with phycologist

Mental health is a crucial component of overall wellbeing, and it is important companies provide support to their employees in this area. However, employers are reducing mental health programmes when employees require them the most.

In 2022, 71% of workers stated their company had increased focus on mental health following COVID-19, but only 25% said this focus had been maintained. Providing solid mental health support can create a positive work environment and contribute to a culture of wellbeing for employees. 

Mental health first aid (MHFA)

Various approaches to wellbeing strategy are taken by organisations. Many businesses choose those in health and safety to lead − through collaboration with the HR department. MHFA is the help provided to people suffering from a mental health problem. A mental health first aider is a great first point of contact for employees looking for support during a mental health crisis. However, despite 94% of CEOs believing they do enough to support workforce mental health in general with different types of initiatives, only 67% of employees feel the same way.

Qualified mental health first aiders are able to provide guidance and support in a confidential, non-judgemental way. Detecting early warning signs and promoting swift intervention encourages recovery and increases resilience within an organisation.

Benefits of mental health policies

Proactively addressing employee mental health and wellbeing can improve the following in each organisation:

  • Brand reputation
  • Customer service
  • Teamwork and productivity
  • Morale among the workforce
  • Job satisfaction

Additionally, organisations that have an embedded wellbeing strategy can also benefit from a reduction in: 

  • Sickness absences
  • Presenteeism
  • Stress and anxiety among employees
  • Staff turnover
  • Workplace accidents and near misses

Organisations that take wellbeing and mental health seriously will create a more attractive environment to work in. This could provide an advantage over competitors for attracting better talent from the Millennial and Gen Z cohorts, which tend to value a work environment that puts wellbeing first.

Risks when expanding MHFA programmes

Organisations that do not fully understand the role and skills required of a mental health first aider may risk implementing counterproductive policies. Unsuitable mental health first aiders operating without proper guidance or support could poorly engage with employees − increasing business risks as a consequence.

While any employee is able to undertake training and upskilling, not all should be active mental health first aiders. It is crucial to consider if MHFA candidates have the following:

  • Appropriate mental and emotional capacity
  • Respect for boundaries and confidentiality
  • No conflict of interest with employees treated
  • No compromises to full-time role caused by volunteering, such as with HR roles

Training for MHFA volunteers must be implemented properly and it is essential beforehand that organisations determine if they have the sufficient resources to either expand or initiate their own MHFA programmes. It is important to be mindful of these risks to enable volunteers to give unbiased, impartial support to staff.

Wellbeing and MHFA legal obligations

Workplace health legislation varies by jurisdiction. While MHFA training is not a legal requirement in many jurisdictions, it can demonstrate employers are promoting well-being within the workplace. 

Some laws and regulations require employers to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees − including addressing mental health concerns. In some cases, failure to meet these obligations can potentially lead to legal action being taken against employers.

If MHFA provisions become a legal requirement for workplaces a large number of organisations could hastily embark on a targeted recruitment drive. This may result in additional costs with little understanding of the positive or negative impacts that this can lead to.

It is important for employers to stay informed about specific workplace health legislation in their jurisdiction and consult with legal professionals to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

Next steps

MHFA is an important part of all organisations’ wellbeing strategies. A solid wellbeing policy can help reduce stigmatisation and build resilience within the workforce, while providing employees an alternative to relying on line managers and HR.

Future blogs in our People & Wellbeing series will explore the other crucial elements for a well rounded wellbeing strategy. Organisations should continue fostering holistic programmes for their wellbeing strategy to create a healthy workforce.