Mental health first aid – supporting the wellbeing of our people
Charlotte Woodward

4 minutes

Mental health first aid – supporting the wellbeing of our people

Like our physical health, mental health is something we all have and a huge part of our wellbeing. However it’s still a subject that isn’t talked about enough due to the stigma attached to it despite the fact that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.

Mental health problems are more common than we think and it is estimated that 45% of mental illnesses go undiagnosed because people still have a fear of being judged if they open up about their mental health. These worrying statistics show the true extent of mental health problems:

  • The death rate caused by mental health-related issues is six times higher than deaths from road accidents in the UK
  • Depression affects around 1 in 12 of the UK population
  • Rates of self-harm in the UK are the highest in Europe at 400 per 100,000
  • 450 million people worldwide have a mental health problem
  • By 2030, it is estimated that there will be approximately two million more adults in the UK with mental health problems than there were in 2013

Addressing the elephant in the room

As a people-focused employer, it is in our duty of care to create a safe environment where our employees can thrive. Therefore, we’ve recognised the need to address mental health and remove the fear in both people who are suffering from a mental health problem as well as those who want to help others but are scared or unsure of approaching it.

It needs to be recognised that the subject of mental health is not a taboo – we all have a mental health as much as physical health, whether it’s good or bad, and need to treat both states of health with the same level of importance.

In order to remove the stigma attached to mental health and drive more conversations around this often uncomfortable subject, we’ve invested in mental health first aid (MHFA) training for our employees, in partnership with our Impellam sister companies, Blue Arrow, Lorien and onezeero.

We were overwhelmed by the high uptake of the MHFA training course and were able to offer it to seven of our own employees, whose bases are spread broadly across the UK to ensure that MHFA and support is accessible to as many of our employees as possible. Our seven mental health first aiders put themselves forward for the course and it was warming to see that they had a real passion for mental health and, for some, mental health is something that is very personal to them.

Mental health first aid (MHFA) training

The two-day MHFA training course was run by Ruth Cooper-Dickson, founder of Champs Consulting and patron of the charity, No Panic. The course enables our first aiders to recognise symptoms and behaviours related to mental illness that requite intervention and gives them the confidence to intervene and support them.
Intervention could start with a simple “are you ok?” followed by diving into crisis situations using the ALGEE action plan, which is detailed below.
ALGEE: The action plan

  •  A: Approach, assess and assist with any crisis
  • L: Listen and communicate non-judgmentally
  • G: Give support and information
  • E: Encourage appropriate professional help
  • E: Encourage self-help and other supports

Our mental health first aiders

We are incredibly proud of our mental health first aiders, knowing that their actions can make the difference in someone’s life. The feedback on the training course was immensely positive:

The two-day course provided great insights to various areas within mental health and mental illness, and helped broaden my knowledge on these subject matters. Ruth brought lots of examples, training materials and useful tips and guides to make sure we as mental health first aiders are able to support our colleagues when they need us and let them know that it’s ok to talk about it! I’m really looking forward to using my new skills and expertise in the work place, and help make a difference to someone who might be struggling.”

Benjamin McGuinness, Supply Chain Consultant

MHFA training taught me that it’s important to take time to focus on my own wellbeing and mind-set, as well as supporting others. As the old saying goes ‘a problem shared, is a problem halved’ – this course rings true to that statement and has opened my eyes to the uncomfortable truth around mental health. I feel privileged to be a representative of such an important matter for our company and the course has given me the confidence to reassure anyone who may be dealing with a mental health issue that they are not alone. I urge everyone to talk openly and honest about how they are feeling!

Hannah Church, Recruitment Business Partner

Looking after the wellbeing of our people

Whilst our mental health first aiders are there to provide support to anyone who needs it, we understand that it’s not ‘one size fits all’ approach and appreciate that not everyone struggling with their mental health may not want to speak to their peers in the first instance.

Therefore, we also provide mental health support in other forms to ensure there is a suitable support medium for everyone.

This includes partnering with Tlero, a bespoke mental health employee platform that provides tailored content and resources to each individual’s needs. We also encourage open and honest conversations between managers and employees through Open Blend sessions – a coaching tool which replaces appraisals and focuses on employee wellbeing. 

Finally, we offer an employee assistance programme – a free 24/7 confidential service offering immediate information, answers and advice on a range of workplace and personal issues.