Here at LoatesHR, we’re committed to providing high quality HR advisory and guidance services based upon up-to-date employment law knowledge and the latest research across HR/behavioural science and related fields.
MENTOR research project
We are therefore delighted to be working with researchers from the School of Health Sciences at The University of Nottingham as expert panel representatives on MENTOR (MENtal health first aid in The wORkplace), funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. The study, which, involves an investigation into the impact of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training on organisations and their workforce, to enable an understanding of how MHFA can best address the mental health needs of employees and workers. Whilst MHFA England are supporting some aspects of the research, the MENTOR study remains independent of the organisation.
Mental health in the workplace
According to the 2016 CIPD Absence Management Survey, stress remains the most common cause of long-term absence and the second most common cause of short-term absence, with two-fifths of respondents confirming a rise in reported mental health problems over the past year and c. 15.8 million working days lost as a result. The mental health charity Mind, estimates that the cost of mental illness to the economy totals around £105 billion annually due to services user costs, lost productivity at work and reduced quality of life.
The CIPD survey report also suggests that links may be inferred between the rise in reported workplace mental health problems and an increasing trend for long working hours, and increased uncertainty as the UK moves towards Brexit. If these factors are related, then mental health absences are unlikely to reduce unless the employer takes direct action to counterbalance these unhelpful environmental conditions. The CIPD survey concludes that organisations tend to be more effective at supporting people with mental health problems rather than actively promoting good mental well-being. It recommends that managers ‘need to be equipped with the confidence and competence to manage absence and spot early warning signs of ill health’.
Based upon this, it is clear that effective – and proactive – management support for good mental health across the workforce is very important for employers: however many managers or colleagues do not know what to look for or how to respond if a member of their team suffers from mental health symptoms.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training
This is where training such as Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) comes in. MHFA is an internationally recognised training programme with courses being developed and offered by Mental Health First Aid England https://mhfaengland.org/. There are a range of courses available including a standard 2 day Adult MHFA course which qualifies the individual to become a trained Mental Health First Aider to address the mental health needs of adults. The training is aimed at anyone wanting to acquire skills to help spot the signs and symptoms of mental health problems and offer initial support to the person affected. The training has been undertaken by workers, line managers, HR/H&S professionals, medical professionals, carers and wellbeing champions. It aims to equip participants with the knowledge and skills to identify signs of a mental health issue, provide help on a first aid basis and guide someone towards the appropriate professional support.
MHFA training courses first came to England in 2007 and were launched under the Department of Health in England as part of a national approach to improving public mental health. Promoted as the mental health equivalent to physical First Aider training, there is however, no legal requirement to provide this training across a workforce and no detailed research into the impact of this training on employee populations.
The University of Nottingham feasibility study is therefore an important and significant piece of research which we’re very pleased to be part of. We look forward to publishing the results of the MENTOR study on the Loates HR Consultancy website, as soon as they become available for public view.