What is Mental Health First Aid?

By Terry Streather | Mental Health

Jul 11

What is Mental Health First Aid?

If you thought a colleague or service user was struggling with their mental health would you know what to do?
Would you have the confidence to ask “Are You OK?” and would you know what to do if they said “No”?

Click on the button to download our free PDF for more information about Mental Health First Aid

The pressures of a prolonged period of uncertainty are bound to have an impact on the wellbeing of staff and service user alike. “Resilience” seems to be the word of the moment, and a google search defines it as:

the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape…the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
Why does it matter?

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But in these times of seemingly endless restructures and rounds of redundancies, what happens to our resilience when there doesn’t seem to be any let up? The link between stress and anxiety and more serious mental ill health is well established, and the reality is mental ill health can affect all of us.

In any given year it is estimated that as many as 1 in 4 adults will experience a diagnosable mental health issue, and some estimate it to be nearer 1 in 2.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, anxiety, depression and stress account for 43% of all working days lost due to ill health. The most commonly cited causes:

  • Workload
  • Changes in the workplace
  • Aggression
  • Lack of managerial support
A culture of fear and silence

21% reported sick to avoid work

42 % considered resigning

To make matters worse, a report from the mental health charity MIND, says that a culture of fear and silence exists, with 21% of workers admitting to have reported sick to avoid work and 42% saying that they had considered resigning.

And in financial terms it is estimated that Mental Ill Health costs employers £26 billion per year, which works out at around £1000 per employee.

And the pressure are not only restricted to staff. Research from the housing sector for example has shown that we more than 4 times as likely to experience mental distress if you are homeless, or at risk of loosing your home, than those in stable accommodation.

In 2010 Homeless Link reported that 7 out of 10 of clients had mental health needs and a third of those currently lacked the support they need to address their mental health. Here’s the full report.

“A Stitch In Time…”

Unlike a physical illness or injury, people are far less likely to be open about a mental health concern and can struggle on alone and in silence, making the problem worse. Having the understanding to challenge assumptions and ignorance about mental ill health is a vital part of dealing with perceived “stigma” and can make a real difference to people’s lives.

Mental Health First Aid is NOT about how to do CPR on someone experiencing a psychotic episode. Nor is it about diagnosing mental illness, prescribing treatment or becoming a counsellor.

Like regular First Aid, it’s about recognising the crucial early warning signs to identify, understand and help a person who may be developing a mental health issue, such as anxiety, depression or psychosis.

If we know what to look for we can provide initial support to staff and service users, and guide them in the direction of the professional help they need. Our courses are certificated through Mental Health First Aid England, and you will gain the confidence to ask:

“Are you ok?”

Click on the button to download our free PDF for more information about Mental Health First Aid


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About the Author

Terry is Director and Head of Training at Oakwood. He helps clients promote a proactive, rather than reactive approach to both personal safety and the positive mental health of their staff. He has over 12 years teaching experience in these areas, and advises organisations in the development of appropriate risk assessment and policy.