Mental Health First Aid Bill – getting ahead of the curve
Last month Conservative MP Dean Russell proposed a new Bill in the House of Commons to make it a legal requirement for businesses to offer Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training.
The intention behind proposing this is to equip specific employees with the skills and knowledge to be able to identify the early signs of mental health issues in the workplace and ultimately, as Russell told MPs, provide training that could save lives.
Simon Blake, Chief Executive at Mental Health First Aid England, welcomed the proposed Bill as it highlights the importance of prioritising mental health in the workplace, further suggesting that it be treated with the same level of care as physical first aid.
The proposed measure to grant equal value to Mental Health First Aid and Physical First Aid within the legal framework would serve as a crucial illustration of employers recognising the significance of both their employees’ mental and physical well-being, which are inherently interconnected.
The Bill in itself has divided opinion, with some concerns raised about its application, the responsibility it puts on individuals, and how it will impact SMEs. But regardless of whether the Bill is passed as it is, as a minimum it shines a spotlight on the topic of mental health at work.
Whatever happens in Parliament, businesses don’t need to wait for changes in the law to prioritise their mental health and wellbeing strategies. Providing access to Mental Health First Aid will help support workforces in all aspects of their wellbeing at work.
At AdviserPlus, not only have we been committed to elevating our own wellbeing and mental health agenda for years, but we’ve also been helping other businesses to do the same. We understand the importance of getting ahead of the curve when it comes to prioritising mental health agendas, so here are 3 steps to help you to promote mental health and wellbeing throughout your organisation.
1. Normalise Mental Health Conversations
With mental health issues accounting for 51% of work-related illnesses last year, mental health and wellbeing needs to be at the heart of organisations’ people strategies, to help create a culture that normalises conversations around mental health. This requires a comprehensive approach that involves all levels in the organisation, including leaders and managers modelling openness and vulnerability when it comes to mental health.
Another powerful tool to get people openly talking about mental health is to create employee focus groups, which help create a more supportive and inclusive workplace culture by breaking down barriers and fostering empathy and understanding.
At AdviserPlus we have an employee working group called ‘Wellbeing Plus’ who regularly host events and activities that keep mental health and wellbeing on the agenda. The aim of the group is to provide support and education to our colleagues in issues that may impact anyone within the workforce. We have a calendar of events, hosted on our intranet Wellbeing page, that shows colleagues planned activities that can help support mental health.
Employees are encouraged to participate in these campaigns and workshops and are provided with resources and information about mental health, including how to recognise signs and symptoms of distress and support in seeking the appropriate help.
By cultivating an environment that prioritises mental health and supports those who may be struggling, organisations can reduce the stigma around mental health issues and by doing so, create a culture of psychological safety for employees.
2. Mental Health First Aid Teams
Organisations shouldn’t wait to find out if the Bill is passed before implementing mental health and wellbeing strategies. By taking proactive steps now, you can improve wellbeing in your organisation, reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and create a more supportive and inclusive culture by demonstrating to your employees that you value their mental health and are committed to supporting them through any challenges they may face. Having trained Mental Health First Aiders means ensures your employees know who they can speak to help direct them to the right support when they need it.
At AdviserPlus we have a team of Mental Health First Aid Instructors who have accredited hundreds of employees as Mental Health First Aiders through MHFA England, as well as accrediting over 30 Mental Health First Aiders within our own business, ensuring everyone has access to mental health support.
The training is a key component in creating a safe, healthy workplace where the mental and physical health of employees is valued equally. It gives employees the tools to support their own mental health and that of their colleagues, encouraging them to access timely support when needed. To be effective and have a sustainable impact, the training needs to be implemented as part of a strategic, whole organisation approach to wellbeing.
Alongside the Mental Health First Aid Training, we have created a bespoke Mental Health Awareness course which focuses on giving line managers the practical skills to support their team members with mental health issues and to proactively create a climate that promotes overall wellbeing. The workshop helps managers to become more confident in talking about mental health at work and build their capability in supporting colleagues experiencing mental health.
We help organisations to embed positive, long-term cultural and behavioural change into their organisations. Watch this engaging case study video to find out how we helped Sharon Benson, former HRR Director at Sunrise Senior Living with the care organisation’s mental health agenda
3. Create a Safe and Supportive Work Environment
To support the wellbeing of employees, organisations need to establish a safe and supportive working environment that prioritises mental health in an effective way. Having progressive policies in place is one of the first signals to an employee that the will be supported in issues that may impact their wellbeing at work.
- Mental Health Policies
- Implementing policies that support mental health, such as flexible working arrangements, mental health days, and accommodations for employees with mental health conditions, help to break down barriers for employees who may need additional support. This signals that mental health is recognised and supported throughout the company and helps to build a culture of inclusion.
- Inclusive policies
- Not everyone will experience the same stressors in life, but as an organisation you can demonstrate your commitment to protecting and supporting employees in areas that may impact their wellbeing at work by implementing progressive policies that cover various stages in life. These policies can include topics such as fertility treatment, pregnancy loss, menopause, domestic violence, gender transition etc.
Ultimately, whether the Bill is passed in Parliament or not, employers have a duty of care to ensure that their employees are well supported in all aspects of their health, including their mental health.
To discuss how we can assist your organisation in strengthening your commitment to caring for your employees’ wellbeing and staying ahead of the curve with mental health and wellness strategies, contact us today.