Businesses are searching for ways to improve the wellbeing of their employees more than ever. Many organisations offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), – an external assistance program for employees who reach out for help – but sometimes the employee seeks advice and help from their direct manager or supervisor. There are many in these roles who feel they’re not prepared or qualified in how best to respond in these situations. Because of this, some organisations are turning to mental health first aid training for their front-line leaders. But, does it help?
We recently read a paper that evaluates fifteen research studies to estimate the effect of providing mental health first aid training programs. The results demonstrated that mental health first aid programs have a positive impact in that they
- increase participants’ knowledge regarding mental health
- decrease negative attitudes
- increase supportive behaviours toward individuals with mental health issues.
What is Mental Health First Aid Training?
Mental health illness is a global issue with mental disorders and substance misuse disorders accounting for 7.4% of the total disease burden. These disorders are the most important risk factor as a precursor to suicidal thoughts. Issues of stigma, lack of help-seeking and lack of knowledge of the professional care that’s available and how to access it, sees many people who need help, continue to not receive it.
Mental health first aid training aims to increase participants’ knowledge about mental health in general, together with common disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety, psychosis, substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal behaviours, panic attacks and traumatic events) and available treatment options.
The aim is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental disorders, as negative attitudes have an adverse impact on supportive and help-seeking behaviours.
Through teaching proactive techniques that can facilitate healthy relations and communication, mental health first aid training aims to equip the participant with skills to provide help to a person in distress or someone who is suicidal. Mental health first aid training is generally a two-day course that usually includes information on
- Signs and symptoms of a mental health issue at work
- How work can contribute to mental health issues
- Appropriate mental health training for employees
- The pros and cons to disclosing a mental health issue at work
- Talking with co-workers about a person with a mental health issue
- Expected reasonable adjustments that should be made to the work environment to assist employees with mental health issues.
Can Mental Health First Aid Training Help?
The aim of the research under review was to test whether participation in mental health first aid training increased mental health literacy, improved attitudes and increased the help and support offered.
The results showed that mental health first aid training is very effective in increasing knowledge regarding mental health issues. This was a consistent finding even across organisations with robust safety cultures and highly developed mental health programs. The training was also effective in decreasing negative attitudes towards people with mental health issues. This is important because employees need to feel they’re in a safe environment when they can reach out and seek help.
Participating in mental health first aid training was found to be effective in increasing help-providing behaviour.
Mental health first aid training increases mental health literacy including improvement in self-recognition, increased insight into one’s own and others’ emotional wellbeing and enhanced mental health-related vocabulary.
These outcomes lead to increased coping skills and improved confidence to provide informed support for employees with mental health issues.
What Can Organisations Provide to Support the Training?
Mental health first aid training is generally provided for managers or supervisors and is a great first step to increase mental health literacy and training on appropriate responses when employees reach out and seek help.
But what can we do to increase mental health literacy for all other employees so they know when to reach out and seek help for themselves or a co-worker?
Part of an integrated approach to workplace mental health training is including online and mobile-based solutions such as the Tap Into Safety Mental Health Training. Our training is aimed at the employee and helps them to increase their mental health literacy by providing animated stories on workplace stressors that can impact on their mental health.
Within the Tap into Safety solution, employees are encouraged to seek help. Organisations can also access data to identify staff groups with mental health issues early on.
For businesses investing in workplace mental health, Tap into Safety Mental Health Training Solution helps by intervening early to support worker mental health through providing relevant and interactive workplace wellbeing training.
Our clients have experienced a 100% increase in help-seeking activities since using the Tap Into Safety Mental Health Training, as part of their wellbeing program. By tackling the stigma head on and encouraging help-seeking early, organisations can reduce the escalation of serious stress claims.
Strategically placing staff trained in mental health within identified groups with declining mental health could start to see an improvement in the mental health of your organisation.