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Mental Health First Aiders

I recently qualified as a Mental Health First Aider. The idea is to be a point of contact for any employee who is experiencing mental health issues or some form of emotional distress. Normally, this ranges from having a friendly chat through to directing them to expert, professional help and supporting someone while they get the help they need.

While I am a qualified hypnotherapist, it is not essential to have any former of prior healthcare training. Typically, Mental Health First Aiders are just regular employees and are not part of the management team or Personnel / Human Resources. This is very important as many employees can feel a sense of guilt or shame at admitting they are suffering with a mental health condition and organisational attitudes and culture can be less than ideal. I have written in the past about reluctance of people to seek help and the perceived stigma of suffering with mental health concerns.

Mental health has long been the Cinderella of the health services both within the National Health Service (NHS) and in the workplace. Being given equal status would be a significant step towards acceptance of mental health issues.

The statistics around mental health are frightening. It’s thought as many as one in six of people at work have symptoms of a mental health condition at any one time. A survey by MIND (UK mental health charity) found in 2018 that 50% of the 44,000 employees surveyed had suffered some form of mental health problems at some point. These conditions are typically, anxiety, stress, burnout and depression. If you suffer from any of these and feel that hypnotherapy can help you them contact me.

A government commissioned review, published in 2017, put the cost to the economy of these conditions at between £74bn and £99bn a year. Having a system to support employees is clearly the right thing to do and makes good business sense. It also fits with the employer’s duty of care. And, when people feel supported and valued, it contributes towards a motivated and efficient work force.

The employees of an organisation are its life blood. When we have a sense of well-being we function so much better. From a business perspective, it’s incredibly short-sighted to ignore mental health issues. As Richard Branson (British Entrepreneur) said, “By putting the employee first, the customer effectively comes first by default, and in the end, the shareholder comes first by default as well”.

Having Mental Health First Aiders is relatively new and so it’s unclear how effective they will be. If an employer used them as a tick box – ‘We really care, we have Mental Health First Aiders’, without addressing the underlying causes of health problems the initiative will be worthless. Furthermore, from a humane perspective, to be forever increasing pressure on employees and not properly caring for them seems immoral. It indicates that some companies think only of shareholder value, profits or service level agreements, which is very short sighted and is nothing short of foolish.

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