HSE Publishes Updated First Aid Guidance to Include Mental Health
As part of their commitment to enhancing work-place mental health, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have updated their online first-aid guidance to include a section on managing mental health conditions.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published the updated online guidance to help employers support staff experiencing a mental health issue.
The HSE’s updated first aid guidance states companies should consider appropriate ways to “manage mental ill health in the workplace”.
According to the guidance, this could include providing information or training for managers and employees, employing occupational health professionals, appointing mental health-trained first aiders and implementing employee support programmes.
The updated guidance comes after businesses and trade unions including the CWU wrote letters to the Prime Minister which called for a change in the law to protect mental health in the workplace. The letters were co-ordinated by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England and specifically called on ministers to amend health and safety legislation to put mental and physical first aid on an equal footing.
The new guidance is a result of the government looking to ensure that everyone has the same opportunity to progress in the workplace and achieve their potential, including those with mental health conditions, and follows the recommendations from the government commissioned ‘Stevenson-Farmer’ Report.
The HSE guidance suggests that following an employer’s first-aid needs assessment, it may be decided that it would be beneficial to have someone trained to identify and understand symptoms, and be able to support someone who might be experiencing a mental health issue. They advise on methods in which mental health can be managed in the workplace and how the method can vary dependent on the business. These methods can range from:
- providing information and training;
- employing an occupational health professional;
- appointing mental health trained first-aiders; and
- implementing employee support programmes.
Mental Health First-Aid training courses teach people how to recognise warning signs of mental ill health, and develop skills to approach and support someone, whilst also keeping the first-aider safe. The HSE hopes their guidance will help employers to better understand the need to consider mental health with physical health when undertaking a needs assessment.
The new HSE guidance is an important step towards supporting workers mental health but clearly that equality will only truly be reached when the law demands that every workplace must make provision for mental, as well as physical, first aid.
We look forward to achieving legislative change so that Health and Safety Regulations are designed to protect our whole health, mental and physical.
Mental Health First Aiders are a catalyst for engagement, helping to provide workers with the confidence to come forward and seek support at their time of need.
The HSE’s new guidance is a welcome step forward, but legislative change is needed if we want to see real progress across society. It’s essential that every workplace has access to first aid support for both mental and physical health.
St. John Ambulance has also welcomed the HSE news, releasing a statement which read: “St. John Ambulance firmly believes that taking care of our own and one another’s mental wellbeing, whether it’s managing stress, depression or another condition, is as important as looking after physical illness. As a practical starting point, employers can ensure they have an appropriate number of trained mental health first aiders among their workforces and for the last 18 months, St. John Ambulance has been helping them to do this.”
In a survey by the health-tech firm ‘Mynurva’ it has found that 32% of all UK adults in full-time employment have suffered from mental health problems in the workplace. Of those people who have suffered from mental health in the workplace, over a third (37%) have never sought any professional help for their mental health problems and 44% have never disclosed their issues to a manager at work. Mynurva’s research shines a light on just how many people in full-time work across the UK are suffering in silence with their mental health problems and clearly, workers still live in fear of what will happen to their jobs and colleague relationships if they were to open up about the problems they are facing, and this is a serious concern.
The updated HSE on-line first aid needs assessment guidance is attached along with HSE Guide L74.
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer