Insights for Organisations

Mental Health First Aiders: Does Your Business Need One?

John Smith
26.10.23

Employee wellbeing has been recognised as a critical factor in business success. Mental health and in particular, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is becoming increasingly important, with over 660,000 trained Mental Health First Aiders now supporting businesses across England!

MHFA certification empowers employees to offer initial support to colleagues with mental health challenges, cultivating empathy and resilience at work. Its rising popularity reflects businesses’ dedication to prioritising employee well-being, and recognising that a healthier, happier team drives productivity and success.

Let’s explore Mental Health First Aid in more detail, looking at how it can be beneficial for both employees and employers.

What’s in this article?

Executive summary

What is Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)?

MHFA stands for Mental Health First Aid, which is a programme designed to provide initial assistance and support to individuals who are experiencing mental health challenges or crises. Similar to traditional first aid, which offers initial assistance to physical health emergencies, Mental Health First Aid does the same but for mental health issues, The main purpose of MHFA is to help people in distress until they can receive professional mental health treatment or support.

FDM currently has 13 trained MHFA’s spread across our 4 UK offices.

Lyndsey Regan, Senior HR Business Partner, People & Culture Team, London at FDM Group is one of our Mental Health First Aiders. She says, ‘FDM is committed to ensuring employees have access to as much support as possible when dealing with our mental and physical health. As an HR Professional our role is not only to work with line managers to support their team members but also to provide guidance and advise to employees who may be going through challenging times.

Shortly after I joined, FDM had arranged a MHFA course. I was keen to improve my own knowledge of mental health within the workplace and how best we could support our colleagues, so volunteered to be part of the London Office team.’

What does a Mental Health First Aider do?

In the UK, a Mental Health First Aider undergoes training to provide initial support and assistance to individuals experiencing mental health challenges. These individuals are trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health issues, offer non-judgmental listening and communication, and provide guidance on how to access appropriate professional help or resources. The role of a Mental Health First Aider is to offer immediate assistance and support to someone in need and promote mental health awareness and destigmatisation.

It’s important to note that they are not a substitute for mental health professionals but play a crucial role in early intervention and support!

Lyndsey says, ‘We attended a 2-day in person training course in the Leeds office in August 2023. The course was run by qualified Mental Health First Aider trainers and the purpose was to educate us in several key areas of mental health; train us to recognise signs or indicators that may suggest someone needs help and provide us with a framework to guide us in ensuring our colleagues receive the appropriate professional help.’

What is the role of a qualified Mental Health First Aider in the workplace?

Qualified Mental Health First Aiders undergo rigorous training to equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to provide effective support to those who need it. In the workplace, they play a crucial role in promoting mental well-being, supporting employees, and creating a psychologically healthy work environment. Their roles and responsibilities include:

Recognising signs of distress

Mental health first aiders are trained to identify signs and symptoms of mental health issues in their colleagues. This includes noticing changes in behaviour, mood, or performance that may indicate a mental health concern.

Providing initial support

When they encounter a colleague in distress, mental health first aiders offer initial support and a listening ear. They create a safe and non-judgmental space for individuals to discuss their concerns and feelings.

Guide employees to helpful resources

Mental Health First Aiders guide employees to appropriate resources and services. They can suggest and explain the available mental health support options, such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or community resources.

Reducing stigma

They contribute to creating a workplace culture that is more open and accepting of mental health issues. By promoting conversations about mental well-being and reducing stigma, they help employees feel more comfortable seeking help when needed.

Educating colleagues

They can provide educational sessions or workshops on mental health topics to raise awareness and equip colleagues with knowledge about mental health issues and available resources. This adds to reducing the mental health stigma in professional environments.

Crisis intervention

In some cases, Mental Health First Aiders may need to provide immediate assistance during a mental health crisis. This could involve contacting emergency services or taking appropriate action to ensure the individual’s safety.

Supporting Returners

When employees are returning to work after a long break, particularly when this is a mental health-related absence, Mental Health First Aiders can offer support and help facilitate a smoother reintegration into the workplace.

8 Benefits of Mental Health First Aiders at work

There are countless benefits of having Mental Health First Aiders at work for both employees and businesses alike. Here are eight benefits of MHFA in the workplace:

  1. Improved employee wellbeing
  2. Reduced absenteeism
  3. Enhanced productivity
  4. Lower turnover
  5. Positive workplace culture
  6. Compliance with legal requirements
  7. Enhanced leadership skills
  8. Recruitment advantage

1. Improved employee wellbeing

Introducing MHFA into a work environment helps improve employee wellbeing, which contributes to a happier, more engaged workforce. In turn, this results in increased job satisfaction, creativity, and overall morale. Most importantly, better mental health means reduced stress, enhanced work-life balance, and a more positive work experience, leading to improved personal and professional lives.

2. Reduced absenteeism

Less absenteeism means lower costs related to lost productivity, overtime expenses, and the need to hire temporary replacements. And at the same time, it also enables employees to maintain their work responsibilities, reducing the risk of work-related stresses and burnout.

3. Enhanced productivity

Improved employee wellbeing is linked with a boost in productivity that can be helpful for employee productivity, and business performance as a result. For example, employees that are productive can experience improved job fulfilment, better recognition within their company, more opportunities for advancements, and better salaries. All of these benefits can contribute to increased business productivity and improved competitiveness in the market.

4. Lower turnover

Reduced turnover leads to cost savings associated with recruitment, training, and onboarding new employees. It also contributes to a more stable and experienced workforce. Moreover, lower turnover is indicative of a positive working environment and high employee satisfaction – something every business should prioritise for its employees!

5. Positive workplace culture

Mental Health First Aiders are on hand to ensure all employees have the assistance to get the help they need, which can lead to a positive workplace culture where everyone feels valued. Not to mention, it encourages more employees to seek mental health guidance, which may otherwise go ignored. A positive workplace culture enhances teamwork, communication, and collaboration, leading to better employee relations, innovation, and a greater sense of belonging for individuals.

6. Compliance with legal requirements

Compliance is a non-negotiable for businesses. Meeting legal requirements for mental health support minimises the risk of legal issues and ensures the company is operating within the law. Simultaneously, compliance with legal standards also guarantees that employees have access to necessary mental health resources and accommodations, protecting their rights.

7. Enhanced leadership skills

It’s a good idea to encourage employees in management roles to partake in Mental Health First Aider training to help make them better leaders! Enhanced leadership skills in managers can result in fairer treatment, greater support, and more opportunities for employee growth and development.

8. Recruitment advantage

A positive approach to mental health can attract top talent, making it easier to hire the best candidates and maintain a competitive edge in the job market. And for potential employees, they can choose employers that value well-being, ensuring they have access to support and resources that promote mental health.

There are several ways you can measure the impact of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) at work. For instance, collecting and analysing data regarding the number of people accessing Employee Assistance Programmes, rate of absenteeism from work, and tracking mental health-related incidents. Alternatively, employee surveys and feedback can provide valuable insights into the success of your MHFA programme.

How to become a Mental Health First Aider

To become a certified Mental Health First Aider, you need to successfully finish a two-day MHFA course. This is a comprehensive course made up of a combination of presentations, interactive discussions, and group activities. Each MHFA course is taught by a qualified instructor who has completed an Instructor Training program, accredited by the Royal Society for Public Health.

The Mental Health First Aider course is available to anyone and everyone, but it’s a plus if you’re truly passionate about mental health and wellbeing! If you successfully complete the course, you will receive a certificate to show that you are a trained Mental Health First Aider. This also includes a fold-out summary card that contains the MHFA action plan that you can carry around with you for reference.

Visit the MHFA England website to sign up for a course.

Mental Health First Aiders at FDM

We are proud to be an equal opportunities employer, ensuring we give everyone the chance to pursue their dream careers in business and technology. We’re committed to breaking the stigma of mental health in the workplace to ensure a safe working environment where everyone is able to get the support they need. If our consultants are struggling with their mental health at work, our Mental Health First Aiders are available to lend a helping hand and provide guidance to additional, professional support.

Lyndsey explains – ‘We are not qualified to provide professional advice. However, we can be available to any colleague who may be having a crisis. We can approach, assess and assist; listen and communicate in a non-judgemental way; give support and information; encourage appropriate professional help and encourage the use of other support networks. Most importantly we also play our part in ensuring the work environment promotes a culture where we feel our well-being is being looked after and where we are comfortable asking for help when needed.’

For our clients, this is something you can implement within your businesses to help nurture the best talent and show your commitment to employee wellbeing. This way, you can ensure that you’re reassuring current staff and attracting prospective candidates.

Learn more about FDM’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, and how you can gain access to some of the best, diverse talent the country has to offer.