Helping your people with their mental health

Towards the end of 2019, I qualified as a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) after attending a two-day Mental Health First Aid England course.

You may be wondering why I would attend such a course. After all, I’m self-employed and a sole trader with no employees. I have no teams to manage. Why would I want to learn about mental health?

Simple really. Mental health affects us all. One in four of us will experience a mental health issue in any given year. I wanted to know more about building an awareness of mental health and being able to recognise the signs of mental ill health. And not only for my family, friends and wider community, but also for myself.

Audre Lorde, civil rights activist and poet, said: ‘Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.’

The course taught us how important it is to look after ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I tend to deal with the needs of those around me first and find myself very low down in the priority rankings. It’s inbuilt. But over time, this can have a detrimental effect on your health – both mental and physical.

This quote recently appeared in my Facebook feed:

And it is so true.

Mental health issues are common, particularly depression and anxiety. The MHFA course opened my eyes to some startling facts and figures about mental health, especially among young people. It also dispelled some of my preconceptions surrounding people with mental health issues. Coming from a generation who grew up having to demonstrate a ‘stiff upper lip’, embracing all things mental health was a real challenge. I firmly believe this ‘pull yourself together’ archaic approach will only come back to bite you on the bum in later life.

Mental ill health is responsible for 72 million working days lost with an economic cost of £34.9 billion each year (1). The human cost is incalculable. Different studies will estimate the cost of mental ill health in different ways. Other reputable research estimates this cost to be as high as £74–£99 billion (2).

Reducing the cost of sickness absence

You no doubt have a First Aider within your organisation for health and safety purposes and to protect your employees. Doesn’t it make sense to have Mental Health First Aiders as well? People who can recognise when someone is suffering?

Many people who suffer with mental ill health don’t want to talk about their issues for fear of repercussions, such as losing their job or being demoted. Recognising when someone needs help and support is crucial. Your MHFA team will be able to support them and signpost them to the right places for help, from their GP to other organisations. They will also advise on suitable adjustments to help keep staff at work, feeling safe and therefore being productive, helping their wellbeing as well as your business.

All organisations need someone who can offer help, especially at a time of crisis and until the appropriate professional advice is received, or the crisis appears to have been resolved.

Another benefit of having MHFAs is that your company’s reputation will be enhanced – you’ll become known as inclusive, caring and supportive.

A mentally healthy business is always more productive and resourceful.

The MHFA England course I attended was run by Rebecca Cheetham from Siendo. She is an engaging and animated instructor who has a deep knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject. You can find out more details here.

1) Centre for Mental Health. Mental health at work: The business costs ten years on. 2017 [cited 2017 Oct 16].
2) Stevenson D, Farmer P. Thriving at Work: a review of mental health and employers 2017

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