Mental health – are we doing enough?

People have lived with mental health conditions since time began but it seems that, now more than ever, there is increased awareness and that has to be a good thing, right?  But are we doing enough? 

We sent our Head of HR Services, Jayne Dunn, on a Mental Health First Aid* (MHFA) course this week to understand more about the issues that people might face, how symptoms may present themselves and how an individual’s employer and colleagues can support them.

Jayne summarises her experience of the course below:

I don’t think I was fully prepared for how this course would impact on me.  What shocked and saddened me in equal measure were the statistics relating to mental ill-health:

  • It affects 1 in 4 adults;
  • It affects 1 in 10 children (aged 5 – 16);
  • 1/2 of mental health problems are established by the age of 14, and 3/4 by the age of 24;
  • In 2018, there were 600,000 reported cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety;
  • In 2017, 5,821 suicides were registered in the UK: 75% of those were male;
  • In the UK, men are 3 times more likely to take their own lives compared to women;
  • The highest suicide rate in the UK is men aged 45 – 49;
  • In the UK, someone takes their own life every 90 minutes;
  • Poor mental health carries an economic and social cost of £105 billion per year in England.

The positive news is that most mental health problems are mild and, whilst not always fully curable, are certainly treatable and many people are able to enjoy happy and meaningful lives.  However, they are the fortunate ones who receive the right support, and this is the crucial bit.

Because people spend so much time at work employers, line managers and colleagues are often perfectly placed to be able to spot any signs of someone struggling with their mental health.  As with physical First Aid, MHFA is intended to be the initial support given to someone in need by doing any of the following where appropriate:

  • Preserve life where a person could be a danger to themselves or others;
  • Alleviate suffering by providing immediate comfort and support;
  • Prevent the condition from developing into a more serious problem;
  • Promote recovery of good mental health by signposting and obtaining professional support.

This can be achieved by following the C.A.R.E. action plan:

  • C: check for significant risk of suicide or harm;
  • A: apply non-judgmental communication/listening skills;
  • R: reassure and provide information;
  • E: encourage professional support and self-help strategies.

The key message of the course was that, wherever possible, it is important to encourage or initiate a conversation with someone who appears to be struggling so they know that you are there to listen and offer support. For this reason, MHFA training should be provided to those who have the key skills to be able to take on the role.

Although I hope not to have to use my learning from this course too often, I feel confident that I am now better placed to support someone who may need some help due to mental health problems.  Looking back to the statistics given above, if training staff in MHFA can reduce those numbers even marginally, that has to be a good thing, right?

If you would like to speak to us about running a mental health awareness course for your staff, please get in touch.

*The course that Jayne attended is a 2-day certificated qualification: “FAA Award in Supervising First Aid for Mental Health” (Level 3 RQF), delivered by redumbrella via the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce.


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