The impact of poor physical health in the workplace is plain for all to see – but the effect of poor mental health can be just as, if not more damaging. A recent letter signed by industry leaders from across business and education highlighted that one in every six workers will experience mental ill health – which includes depression, anxiety, or stress-related issues.
This represents about 5 million people in the UK, so the costs are significant. Mental health issues are estimated to cost the UK economy nearly £35 billion each year, with 15.4 million working days lost to mental ill health.
What can be done?
There is still a lot of stigma around the issue of mental health, which often makes it difficult for someone experiencing problems to come forward and ask for help. One of the challenges, then is to make the issue of poor mental health as important as poor physical health.
Awareness is so important here, and a training programme called Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) aims to tackle these issues. The aim of MHFA is to try and change attitudes in society around mental health, by developing skills to look after our own and others’ wellbeing. The outcomes of the training are an increased knowledge of the range of mental health problems, including substance misuse, and an increase in the supportive behaviours towards individuals with mental health problems.
The courses teach people to spot the symptoms of poor mental health, and then offer initial help and guide a person towards appropriate support. What it is not about is training people to be therapists themselves – but rather, to help people develop listening and responding skills.
To find out more about MHFA, the skills involved and courses available, go to their website here. There are a range of courses available, including some which focus specifically on young people, and people who are or have been in the armed forces.