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Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace

By Naheem Ahmend, Inclusion and Diversity Manager and Mental Health First Aider, Wesleyan

Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace

The spotlight on improving mental health and well-being in the workplace has been shining ever brighter over recent years.

Of course, there are business benefits to having a mentally resilient and healthy workforce - less absences, higher morale, better productivity, etc.

But, with mental health being more openly discussed throughout society and in the media, more and more companies are prioritising and supporting staff well-being simply because it's the right thing to do.

This is certainly something I believe in, and is one of the reasons I became a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) in my workplace.

What is a Mental Health First Aider?

An MHFA is a point of contact in the workplace for anyone who has an issue or is in emotional distress.

These issues don't have to be work-related. They might be connected to work, but they can be about anything - the MHFA is there to listen non-judgmentally and confidentially, and signpost them to places that may be able to provide help.

At Wesleyan, we have a network of MHFAs for people to choose who they would like to talk to.

Why I became a Mental Health First Aider

People seem to come to me for advice and I often get told that I'm a good listener.

Before I joined Wesleyan in 2020, I worked in a shopping centre where, sadly, there were several suicides a year. Dealing with these went way beyond any HR training I had and that's when I decided to do the MHFA training.

When I joined Wesleyan, they already had the MHFA network in place, so I was able to join that.
My focus now is much more on maintaining relationships, having positive conversations and fostering a culture that is inclusive in all ways, including mental health.

The benefits of an MHFA network in your workplace

I think as we keep talking about mental health as a society, we've all realised how poor mental health can affect anyone and just how easy it can be to hide when we're suffering.

MHFA networks provide people with someone they can talk to easily - they are right there in the workplace.

Often, just being able to talk openly about something - whether it's an issue at home, with themselves or a problem at work - and having someone listen can be a huge relief in itself.

It can open the pressure valve enough for them to begin to feel better and if they need extra support, an MHFA can help them to access other services.

These networks also provide opportunity for people to challenge workplace issues such as negative behaviour or indirect discrimination which people may not feel able to raise elsewhere.

Many of us feel like we're often living at full steam. Having this kind of network helps to create a culture where your employees feel able to take a pause and step back from time to time, in order to have these important conversations.

Companies know that people are their biggest asset; looking after them is the right thing to do.

If you want to create a truly inclusive, open culture in your company and make sure your people know that you care about their well-being, creating an MHFA network can be a good place to start.

We created the Wesleyan Well-being Hub to support our customers and employees. You can visit the hub to assess your mental and physical health and access helpful resources.

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