Calls for mental health first aiders to be compulsory

On World Mental Health Day (10 October 2018) the Government urged businesses to increase awareness of mental health issues in the workplace. 

According to a report issued by the Government, almost 1 in 3 people will experience mental health problems during their working life and mental ill health is now recognised as the single largest cause of disability in the UK. It has also overtaken back problems to become the biggest cause of sickness absence in the UK, with around 70 million work days missed each year.

On Mental Health Day a petition of almost 200,000 signatures was delivered to Downing Street campaigning for a new law making it compulsory for businesses to have a designated “mental health first aider”. A mental health first aider is specifically trained to identify, understand and help someone experiencing a mental health issue. This petition received the backing from well-known companies such as WH Smith, Bupa, and Ford.

It is important for employers to know how to help an employee who is or might be suffering from a mental health issue. As an employer you should:

  • talk to staff about mental health and encourage them to speak to you if they are facing any problems which may be affecting their ability to cope with work;

  • make sure managers are trained to identify and support employees who may be suffering from mental health issues;

  • intervene early if you suspect that an employee is suffering from poor mental health;

  • seek the advice of medical professionals to ensure you know exactly what the problem is and how it may affect or be affected by the employee’s job;

  • make reasonable adjustments for employees with mental illness to help them remain in work; and

  • assess the situation regularly and do not let the issue slide.