The facts about Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)

Businesses and organisations are now more aware than ever that the health and wellbeing of staff need to be as much about their mental health as their physical health.

Concepts like Mental Health Days in the workplace and campaigns such as World Mental Health Day and Mental Health Awareness Week are improving awareness and reducing the stigma attached to the topic of mental health.

As a result, HR professionals and line managers need to be mindful of how they can support staff that might be struggling with mental health issues.

One of the ways that companies can provide help and support to the members of their management team is by providing Mental Health First Aid training.

What is Mental Health First Aid?

You’ve probably offered first aid training to staff and have your own first-aid specialists within your business.

But when you consider that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, traditional first-aid training doesn’t equip individuals with the skills to cope with such issues.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a training program that specifically teaches people how to help someone experiencing mental health problems.

First developed in Australia in 2000, Mental Health First Aid programs have spread across the globe and in 2016, 1.7 million people had been trained worldwide.

Like traditional first aid, Mental Health First Aid does not teach people to treat or diagnose conditions. Instead, it aims to teach people how to offer initial support until appropriate professional help is received.

What is the benefit of Mental Health First Aid?

A number of studies have shown that people trained in Mental Health First Aid showed improved knowledge, confidence, attitudes and helping behaviour.

Analysis of data from 15 studies concluded that it also increased participants' knowledge regarding mental health, decreased their negative attitudes, and increased supportive behaviours toward individuals with mental health problems.

Having originally been developed to train the public, there has recently been an increase of interest in MHFA training in workplace settings.

Due to this additional interest, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) wanted to explore the effectiveness of MHFA in the workplace and published their findings in the Summary of the evidence on the effectiveness of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training in the workplace.

What were the findings of the Mental Health First Aid review?

The short answer is, inconclusive.

In their own words, the HSE found that:

“A number of knowledge gaps have been identified in this evidence review that means it is not possible to state whether MHFA training is effective in a workplace setting. There is a lack of published occupationally-based studies, with limited evidence that the content of MHFA training has been considered for workplace settings. There is consistent evidence that MHFA training raises employees’ awareness of mental ill-health conditions. There is no evidence that the introduction of MHFA training in workplaces has resulted in sustained actions in those trained, or that it has improved the wider management of mental ill-health.”

You can read the full summary here; Summary of the evidence on the effectiveness of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training in the workplace.

Should you consider Mental Health First Aid training for your business?

The Department of Health has encouraged employers in England to provide MHFA training as one of three steps in its 2012 ‘No Health without Mental Health: Implementation Framework’.

While the HSE summary couldn’t find any evidence that this form of training had improved the management of mental ill-health in the workplace, it did conclude that it raised awareness of mental health issues.

Ultimately, the decision will be down to business owners as to whether they can see the benefit of offering MHFA training. But anything that raises the awareness of mental health issues and empowers people with the ability to support people who might be struggling can only be a good thing.

Perhaps the fact that MHFA training is in its early stages means that we need to wait before we’ll be able to see the tangible benefits that it might be able to bring to the workplace.

Whether an organisation chooses to introduce Mental Health First Aid training as part of their wellbeing strategy or not, the occupational health specialists at Fusion are here to help with other strategies to improve the awareness and support of mental health in the workplace.

Call us now to find out more.

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Categories: EmployeesHealth & WellbeingMental HealthOccupational HealthSupport

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