In the event of an accident or illness, workplaces are required by law to have First Aid provision in place, under the requirements of the Health and Safety Act 1984. In some circumstances, such as when a person has a cardiac arrest, a skilled First Aid intervention might make the difference between them living or dying. And yet, that same level of protection is not currently there for an employee who might be experiencing a mental health crisis.
Even at the most basic level lies a stark inequality in how a person’s mental and physical health is considered, provisioned for, and therefore protected in the workplace. This is why updating the current legislation around First Aid is more than a good idea, it is essential as one component part in our collective mission to improve the mental health of the nation.
When we started campaigning for a change in the law in 2018, we had the backing of 500 employers, global media giant Bauer UK, 80 cross party MPs and mental health activist Natasha Devon MBE. In the same year, Government through the Health and Safety Executive, updated the Health and Safety guidelines around First Aid, setting out that employers consider mental health as part of a First Aid assessment. This lay the foundation for further work to address the inequality between mental and physical health that continues to exist in the workplace and beyond.
Find out more about the Where's your head at campaign here
First Aid must always be one part of a much wider strategic organisational approach to health, safety, and wellbeing at work. Mental Health First Aid is not the panacea for solving the nation’s mental health crisis.
It is however, making a significant contribution to changing workplace cultures and attitudes to mental health. Every single day trained MHFAiders® are using their skills and experience to tackle stigma, to think differently about their own and others’ mental health, and to signpost to other sources of support. They are using those skills in their workplace, communities, families, and social networks.
As a not-for-profit social enterprise in England, we and our Instructor Member community are part of a vibrant movement of organisations and individuals from different sectors and backgrounds, with a variety of experience and expertise. Together, with workplaces, we are all the time learning how to create mentally healthy, inclusive workplaces for all, and how productivity and wellbeing fuel one another.
MHFA England is also part of a global community. Our course is informed by the global evidence and our own learning over the past 15 years. In 2022, we relaunched our MHFA course with an even stronger focus on developing the skills to have quality conversations, signpost, and to intervene with first aid responses in moments of crisis.
The course has a strong focus on boundaries and self-care. MHFAiders® now have access to ongoing support through our MHFAider Support App® as well as educational tools, resources, and online events for 3 years beyond the date of completing their course.
Every single week I hear the difference MHFAiders® are making. Conversations that are both life changing and lifesaving. The focus on mental health in the workplace is still in its relative infancy but this Bill is shining an important light on the economic, social, and moral imperative for taking action to create equity between physical and mental health.
There are multiple providers of mental health first aid training and legislation that ensures an open training market for those that meet approved standards within the legislation should be welcome and encouraged to ensure training is safe and of high quality.
You can support the Bill's progress through Parliament by writing to your local MP and asking them to support the Bill. You can find out how to contact your constituent MP, here
. To support you with this, we have created an email template, which you can access here
If you want to discuss how we can help your organisation on its mental health and wellbeing journey, please email email@example.com