By law, all workplaces, schools and colleges must make provision around physical first aid. Why not the same for mental health?
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England have launched a petition calling on the government to change the law so that all employers are required to make provision for Mental Health First Aid. This call to action has the backing of the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn MP and former Minister for Health and Social Care, Norman Lamb MP.
‘Where’s Your Head At?’, is a six-week campaign and will kick start Mental Health Awareness Week with celebrities and mental health experts calling everyone to sign a change.org petition to change the law around first aid. When the petition reaches over 100,000 signatories, it will be debated in parliament and if successful would transform the current legal regulations around first aid in the workplace and bring much needed equality to health and safety provision. It would mean that employers would be required to train staff to be skilled in how to listen without judgement, identify signs of mental distress, and able to guide employees to further support.
Mental health issues including stress, anxiety and depression are the biggest cause of sickness absence in our society. Mental Health First Aid courses teach people to spot the signs of mental health issues, offer initial help and guide a person towards support. When support and treatment is accessed early, people recover faster and have better outcomes for their health.
Training people in mental health awareness and skills also helps to build an open and supportive culture around mental health. This can stop preventable health issues arising in the first place, and empower people with mental health issues to thrive in work.
Mental Health First England believe that mental and physical health should be treated equally – because we all have mental health. And they wish to change the law to reflect this.
If the campaign is successful, it will mean that every workplace must provide Mental Health First Aid as well as physical first aid.
Natasha Devon MBE, mental health campaigner and qualified Youth MHFA instructor, is spearheading the campaign, and hopes that the petition will “spur the government into action to protect the wellbeing of its citizens at work.”
By making first aid support available for mental health, workplaces will be encouraging their staff to access help early, speeding up recoveries and reducing sickness absence. Mental health awareness and skills training also helps to create a supportive, open culture around mental health which can stop preventable health issues arising in the first place.
In the long term, protecting staff mental health in this way will reduce the cost of mental ill health to business (£35 billion per year).
The best way to support the campaign is to sign the petition here and share it with your friends, family, colleagues and social media!