Mental Health First Aiders to become mandatory for businesses in 2021
Mental Health |

Mental Health First Aiders to become mandatory for businesses in 2021

Mental Health First Aiders to become mandatory for businesses in 2021


Mental health has - for far too long - been a taboo subject to discuss.

Ruby Wax quoted this perfectly when she said: “How come every organ in your body can get sick and you get sympathy, except the brain?”


So what’s really going on out there?


The Facts:

Let’s take a look at the construction industry, it has the highest rate of suicide of any profession in the UK, a typically male-dominated industry. This disturbing fact coincides with the reality that the highest rate of suicides in the UK are men between 40-50yrs old.

Can we just blame it on “toxic masculinity”, blame men for being men and walk away as it's their problem to sort out, they should just grow up? How can we maintain this outdated view, when the second-highest rate of suicide in the UK is amongst teenagers. Teenage suicide has been rising year on year, female teenage suicide is at the highest ever on record. Scary statistics, readily available online on websites such as the Samaritans and the Office for National Statistics.


Of course, suicide and mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are at the extreme end of mental health problems, but the fact is that 1 in 4 people in the UK is suffering from mental health issues from mild to severe. Yet most of them are not getting the help and information they need, even though the help and information is readily and freely available.


Let’s move on to the workplace, Deloitte recently did a study on the impact of mental health in the working environment. They concluded that mental health issues cost UK employers £45 Billion every year. This is linked to reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover. Deloitte concluded that for every £1 spent on improving the mental health of staff members the ROI is equivalent to £5, a no-brainer then!


Now, if there was any other issue that was costing the economy and businesses this much, both the government and businesses would demand immediate action. Shareholders would basically flip out, CEOs would be fired and hired, change management teams would be brought in to overhaul the situation and plug the hole. Yet when it comes to mental health, billions are lost and nothing seems to be happening.


So the big question for the UK in 2020 is, Why are we not taking mental health seriously?

Are we embarrassed, in denial, are we afraid to speak about it, is it one of those things that should be left to the professionals to deal with? Surprisingly, the government wants to take action quicker than businesses.


Government Changes:

The UK government have announced that they intend to make Mental Health First Aiders compulsory in 2021 for all organisations, in the same way that, by law, every workplace must have staff trained in First Aid at Work.

This is a huge step forward for mental health in the UK,  as we spend most of our lives at work. It’s been a long time coming, yet some businesses in the worst affected industries are still being lethargic towards taking steps to improve mental health. Their approach seems to be the same as when we ask someone how are you, and the answer is “I’m fine”. The words “how are you” have become the same as “hello”. The time has come to ask the question “how are you” and really mean it, in fact, rephrase it “tell me how you really are” because it is truly a domino effect.


So we seem to be sitting on our hands at a time of crisis, however an unlikely ally that has come to the surface or should I say an unlikely culprit, COVID-19.


COVID-19 Impact On Mental Health:

COVID-19 and the lockdown have done more for raising awareness of mental health than any other factor. It has brought mental health as a topic into every household in the UK and this has been a huge blessing. Even in this pandemic, mental health is the biggest health issue we have right now, unlike COVID-19 it cannot be cured by a lockdown or vaccine.


In the mental health first aid community, there is a lot of shouting about what needs to be done to address the situation. It is however not being acknowledged to the level it should be outside of that community. Mental illness is a slow, silent and non-discriminatory illness very similar to cancer, yet cancer is very well known to us all and taken seriously. The good news is there is no doubt we are all keen and willing to play our part, what we lack is the “how do I do it” part. This is where mental health first aid courses come into its own!


Mental Health First Aid:

Mental Health First Aid courses provide you with all the information you need to look after your wellbeing and those around you. It teaches you to spot signs of mental health issues and how to talk, listen to and get people to open up about what they are going through.


Above all it gives you the knowledge to signpost them to professional help, preventing mild symptoms becoming moderate or severe. The great thing is, you do not need to be a therapist, mental health professional or have any sort of healthcare background to do these courses. Everyone can learn to apply knowledge from these courses, ultimately saving lives. It’s a very simple solution to a very complex and difficult problem!  


There are several Mental Health First Aid courses available, they range from half a day to the full 2-day course that qualifies you to be mental health first aider. Due to COVID-19, these courses are now readily available online too. There will never be a better time to take on these courses than in the current lockdown.  


At Mental Health and Life we are already planning for life after lockdown.

Along with online distance learning for Mental Health First Aid courses we also have open courses running at our centre this July in Liverpool. So the big question is, what’s stopping you or your organisation right now?

View and Book a Mental Health course now


Guest Author:

Richie Perera Guest Author

Richie Perera

Mental Health & Life



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