Mental health first aid 'should be mandatory in the workplace'

Henrietta Strickland
November 20, 2018

That would mean employers would have to provide appropriate training for staff to deal with mental ill-health.

A group of British business leaders have called for the Prime Minister to follow through her manifesto promise to "transform how mental health is regarded in the workplace" through updated health and safety regulations.

The letter which is to be delivered to the Prime Minister was also signed by Lord Alan Sugar and journalist, broadcaster and mental health campaigner Alistair Campbell and is part of Bauer's Where's Your Head At campaign, which is calling for Mental Health First Aiders to be made a legal requirement in the workplace in the same way as medical first aiders are.

They warn that the current burden of anxiety, stress and depression in the workplace carries an "astronomical cost" to the economy, but an untold human cost on individuals and their relationships.

"Success will ensure every employee has the right to a mentally healthy environment".

It is believed that Mental health issues cost the United Kingdom economy nearly £35 billion every year, while 15.4 million working days are lost to employees suffering a result of their job.

It says around 300,000 people lose their job each year due to a mental health problem.

May said a year ago she would shake up mental health service provision, which she described as "one of the burning injustices in our country".

Fionnuala Bonnar, chief operating officer of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), which is leading the campaign, said the letter showed that business leaders recognise the need to support their employees' mental health as much as their physical health.

According to Mental Health First Aid England, a social enterprise that provides awareness training, one in six people of working age will experience mental ill health including depression, anxiety or issues relating to stress - nearly 5 million people.

Stephen Clarke, chief executive of WH Smith, the high street retailer, and one of the signatories, said: "Every one of our 14,000 employees has access... It is imperative the Government takes notice of United Kingdom employers and the public who are standing up and calling for change".

"Ensuring that first aid support is there for the millions of people who struggle with their mental health every year will make a big difference to how we all think about our health as a whole".

Earlier this year, a study by the charity Mind revealed that nearly half of United Kingdom workers have experienced a mental health problem at their current job.

Thames Water, which has more than 350 employees across its organisation now wearing green lanyards identifying themselves as mental health first aiders, said it had seen a 75% reduction in work-related stress, anxiety and depression over the last five years. with more occupational health referrals for stress, anxiety and depression than for physical illnesses.

"The Health and Safety Executive will shortly be updating its First Aid guidance to help employers better understand the need to consider mental health alongside physical health".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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