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Mental Health First Aid is on its way

If someone twisted their ankle at your workplace, you’d make sure they got some help, wouldn’t you?

Posted by: Steventhomas on: Monday 10th July 2017 at 11:00

Physical injuries at work usually have to be reported in writing to your employer. Our NHS contracts of employment almost always require us to do this, and the same duty probably falls on your family and friends who work somewhere else, such as a factory, a shop, or a council office.

Think of someone you know who works elsewhere… but now think: what would they do if they were at work and found someone in mental distress?

That’s where Mental Health First Aid comes in. It’s an internationally recognised course, taught in 23 countries, which provides participants with the skills and confidence to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues and effectively guide a person towards the right support. It is the mental health equivalent of physical first aid. The MERIT Vanguard programme has funded training for instructors across the West Midlands, to deliver training to NHS and non-NHS staff alike.

Mental health problems are a major cause of sickness absence at work – there were 440,000 cases of work-related stress, anxiety or depression in England in 2014/15 – so all four MERIT partner Trusts are keen to work with large employers to train their staff in these techniques, to improve mental health and business performance at the same time.

Shakeel Sabir, the head of the MERIT programme, said:

“Most of us wouldn’t think twice about helping someone who suffered a physical injury in front of us, but understandably it’s much harder to spot when someone’s having a mental health issue.”

But Mental Health First Aiders also learn how not to react when someone is in distress.Shakeel added:

“Many people used to think the best thing to do to treat a burn was to put butter on it. Nowadays, most of us know that putting oil on burns is a bad idea, but the same applies to our mental health. There are always courses of action we should avoid.

“We are really looking forward to delivering training to NHS staff, but I also hope that other local employers will sit up and take notice of what we are doing. Like any other sort of first aid, knowing what to do could quite literally save someone’s life.”

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