Mental Health First Aider, an important role in every business

Following last week’s #timetotalkday which encouraged people to talk about mental health in their personal and professional life, we are proud to announce that we have our own mental health first aider at Hospitality Action. Here, newly-qualified MHFA Jo Raine, tells us a bit about her new role.

Global research indicates that one person in four will experience some form of mental health issue in the course of a year. Anxiety, depression and substance use disorders are the most common mental health illnesses in the UK. Throughout the course of any person’s life it is highly likely they will either develop mental ill health themselves or have a friend or relative who does. Yet the long-standing stigma around mental illness means that many people have a limited understanding of mental health issues and fail to seek the support they need.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an internationally recognised education and training programme. The aim of the programme is to extend the concept of first aid training to include mental health issues so that help can be offered to a person developing a mental health issue, experiencing the worsening of an existing mental health issue or in a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional help is received or until the crisis appears to have been resolved.

When Hospitality Action decided to introduce a Mental Health First Aider to our office, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to train for the role. Having completed the two–day course to become a certified mental health first aider I now feel confident that I can recognise many of the signs and symptoms of common mental health illnesses and could effectively guide a colleague to appropriate support.

We learnt how to recognise the signs that someone may be experiencing a mental health issue. The course covered some challenging areas, such as myth-busting common misconceptions about suicide and self-harm, and there was plenty of time for questions and discussion of the role of mental first aid when someone is undergoing a crisis.

The training covers how to provide non-judgemental support and reassurance to a person who is experiencing a mental health issue and guide them to seek the professional support they may need to recover. It also touched on issues such as providing Mental Health First Aid to someone from a different cultural background, which is more likely to occur in the workplace than when supporting family and friends.

Independent research and evaluation shows that taking part in a Mental Health First Aid course raises awareness of mental illnesses, encourages early intervention to aid recovery, increases confidence in dealing with mental illnesses and reduces stigma. Thanks to the development of training courses like the one I went on, employers now have an opportunity to address ignorance about mental health in the workplace and help their employees to access appropriate support.

Happy and healthy staff are more likely to perform well, have good attendance levels, interact well with colleagues and make a valuable contribution to the workplace. Investing in a Mental Health First Aider is one important way in which employers can promote positive mental health in the workplace, for the benefit of all of us.

Our Employee Assistance Programme provides operators with access to a range of support services and counselling, to find out more contact Camilla Woods.