Mental Health at Work
Posted on 1st June 2023 at 10:18
Why Mental Health First Aid isn’t the solution for workplace wellbeing.
I once had a call from someone seeking guidance following a member of their team making two attempts on their life, both of which happened at work. The conversations that followed were a real eye opener for us all as it became apparent that by trying to do what they thought was the right thing, they’d inadvertently created an unsafe environment for themselves and the rest of the team. The reality was, they were trying to help an individual that needed the expertise of highly trained and skilled mental health professionals.
I’ve had many conversations with medical professionals and those in people management, HR and health and safety since as to how different businesses approach these types of situations. These conversations have highlighted a common theme; a consensus that businesses feel the need to ‘fix’ mental health rather than embrace its presence and implement processes or strategies that improve workplace culture.
Is Emergency First Aid the primary control for injuries in the workplace?
I’m a firm believer that Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) play a vital role in signposting those around us struggling with their mental health and that they provide invaluable support to leadership teams who are managing mental health cases in the workplace. That said, as much as they would love to, they simply cannot fix the problem or make it go away and it shouldn’t just be left to them to fly the flag for mental health and wellbeing support.
Do we approach physical safety in this way, relying on first aiders to pick up the pieces when things go wrong? The answer is no, of course we don’t. We follow a systematic approach to safety management that includes risk assessing to determine controls that improve safety standards. It’s a proactive approach that’s designed to reduce the likelihood of someone getting injured.
Why should we be proactive and look beyond just MHFA?
The truth is challenges faced daily outside and inside of the working environment are having a catastrophic effect on our ability to manage our mental wellbeing but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do something about it. As leaders of teams, we must take action to ensure that the workplace doesn’t cause distress, or compound stressors, and make sure our teams are equipped with the knowledge of what to do, and who to contact when they, or someone they work with is struggling.
In addition to the above, the MHFA team can provide additional support should anyone ever get to crisis point and steer them on the right path of intervention from the medical professionals.
If you’re wondering where to start, the HSE detail a set of ‘core’ standards in their 2017 Thriving at Work report which can be used to shape a truly meaningful workplace wellbeing assessment that can add so much value and make a difference to people’s lives: Stress at work - Mental health conditions, work and the workplace - HSE
What benefits do you think you would see if you followed a proactive approach to mental wellbeing in the workplace?
Tagged as: Mental Health First Aid
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