For many years MHFA England has been campaigning for legislative change to the first aid regulations, arguing that all employers should be required to make adequate provision around mental health– particularly in view of the government’s commitment to parity of esteem.  In our 10th anniversary year, we are encouraged to hear that the Conservative party is in agreement and has today announced its manifesto pledge to reform the Health at Work Act so that first aid regulations ‘specifically refer[s] to mental illness.

Prior to today’s manifesto pledge announcement,  our campaign for legislative change has been supported by large employers such as WHSmith, third sector organisations including Mind and long-time mental health campaigner and Liberal Democrat MP, Norman Lamb.  Indeed on World Mental Health Day last year, Mr Lamb launched an Early Day Motion to change first aid legislation and gained over 40 signatories from MPs in favour of amending the Health at Work Act.  Today’s announcement indicates that with cross party unity on this topic there is increased hope that parity of esteem around first aid could soon be reached.

Poppy Jaman, CEO for MHFA England says:

“MHFA England has a mission to train 1 in 10 of the population in Mental Health First Aid skills and the working population will be an important audience to reach if we are to achieve that goal. First aiders are a legal requirement in workplaces and schools, and we believe that mental health should be treated equally to physical health."

“Mental Health First Aid training provides practical skills, giving people the confidence to support someone experiencing a mental health issue.  We are happy to work with any political party or government committed to reforming the woefully out-of-date first aid regulations and by doing so will ensure employee safety is being considered holistically and that adequate provision is being made for both their mental and physical health."

“Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week I hope we will see all of the political parties publicise their manifesto pledges on mental health, as this is a topic which impacts everyone –  young people, parents, teachers, the employed and the unemployed, businesses – big, medium and small. For too long there have been too many inequalities around mental health and it’s therefore vital that both the current and any future government take all necessary steps to ensure a fairer outcome for those who are affected by mental ill health.”

In addition to pledging legislative change to the Health at Work Act, the Conservative party also announced that if it remained in government, it would increase the level of funding already committed to training Youth Mental Health First Aid Champions in every secondary school and expand the budget to reach every primary schools too. The party also pledged to:  

  • replace the flawed Mental Health Act to tackle longstanding problems of discrimination and overuse of detention
  • reform of the Equalities Act to protect those with mental health conditions from discrimination at work
  • 10,000 more staff working in NHS mental health services by 2020

The leader of the Conservative party and current Prime Minister Theresa May said:

“On my first day in Downing Street last July, I described shortfalls in mental health services as one of the burning injustices in our country. It is abundantly clear to me that the discriminatory use of a law passed more than three decades ago is a key part of the reason for this."

“So today I am pledging to rip up the 1983 Act and introduce in its place a new law which finally confronts the discrimination and unnecessary detention that takes place too often. We are going to roll out mental health support to every school in the country, ensure that mental health is taken far more seriously in the workplace, and raise standards of care with 10,000 more mental health professionals working in the NHS by 2020."