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What is a mental health first aider? How to support your staff

2-minute read

Mental health first aider supporting someone at work
Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith

11 April 2022

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If you’re a business with employees, you might be considering learning more about mental health so you can better look after your team’s wellbeing and create a positive place to work.

Here’s how mental health first aid training can help.

What is a mental health first aider?

A mental health first aider is someone who’s trained to support people who are experiencing a mental health issue in the workplace.

Employees who train to be mental health first aiders can identify when a colleague is experiencing a mental health issue, offering them support and understanding.

Why is mental health first aid training important?

At least one in six workers experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression, according to the charity Mind. While additional stressors such as the coronavirus pandemic and financial challenges continue to hit small business owners hard.

WIth that in mind, it’s important to know how to spot the signs of mental ill health so you can look after yourself and your employees. Completing the training gives you the tools to support someone while they’re working for you, and you’ll become an advocate for mental health in your business.

Head of Wellbeing at Simply Business, Kelly O'Neill said: "We all want to know the right thing to say and do when we come across situations regarding mental health, and the training helps you to understand common conditions and remove the stigma and fear. It also gives you a framework for effective conversations and how to deal with different situations.

"Giving people confidence to talk about mental health is empowering, and most importantly helpful to those who need the services of a mental health first aider."

How to become a mental health first aider?

If you’re thinking of becoming a mental health first aider – or offering the training to your employees – you’ll need to book a course with an accredited provider.

You can do a mental health first aid course with MHFA England online or in person. Courses are usually one or two days, depending on the level you need, for example:

Throughout the training, you’ll develop the skills and confidence to support someone, while also keeping yourself safe.

Mental health first aider courses cover things like:

  • what mental health is
  • how to spot the signs of mental health issues
  • how to support someone experiencing mental health issues
  • where to signpost someone who needs support (for example the NHS or self-help resources)
  • behaviours, qualities, and skills needed to be a mental health first aider

During the training, you’ll create an action plan for using mental health first aid and practice applying it in different scenarios, for example how to support someone experiencing anxiety at work.

Interested in learning more? Read our guide on how to cope with anxiety from Clinical Psychologist, Dr Hazel Harrison.

Wellbeing of small business owners

We know from previous research that small business owners struggle to find time to take a holiday and a break from work. On top of that, the coronavirus pandemic has added to the strain, with 82 per cent of small business owners feeling the pandemic is having a negative impact on their mental health.

What makes a good mental health first aider?

Being a good listener is an important skill for mental health first aiders. You’ll learn how to listen without judgement and meet the other person with understanding and empathy.

Other key qualities include:

  • resilience
  • respectful
  • courageous
  • approachable
  • humble
  • open-minded

Tips for managing stress

In this video, Dr Hazel Harrison tells us her practical steps for the self-employed and small business owners to help manage stress as part of our Better for Business campaign.

Small business guides and resources

Are you thinking of investing in mental health first aider training for your small business? Let us know in the comments.

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Photograph: fizkes/
Catriona Smith

Written by

Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith is a content and marketing professional with 12 years’ experience across the financial services, higher education, and insurance sectors. She’s also a trained NCTJ Gold Standard journalist. As a Senior Copywriter at Simply Business, Catriona has in-depth knowledge of small business concerns and specialises in tax, marketing, and business operations. Catriona lives in the seaside city of Brighton where she’s also a freelance yoga teacher.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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