First Aid at work is commonplace but usually only refers to physical illness. Currently one in four people experience a mental health problem which makes it increasingly important for organisations to be aware of the support available and have systems in place if a colleague experiences a mental health crisis at work.

In last year’s health needs survey, which was conducted as part of NCFE’s membership in the Better Health at Work scheme, colleagues told trained Health Advocates that mental health should be a priority for the company’s wellbeing strategy.

The business is really pleased to have been able to introduce a full team of Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs) to support with this.

“Following on from the work that the Health Advocate team completed around mental health last year, it was clear that the business wanted to see more support in place for mental health as we grow. Because of this we were able to secure funding from Trades Union Congress (TUC) through Better Health at Work to train our advocates as MHFAs,” explains Dawn Mulvaney, CACHE Alumni Editor and NCFE Health Advocate.

“Our HR team made up the funding difference to get the support in place and we’re now really pleased to have MHFAs going live across the business, including in our remote teams.”

The initial two day training session, which took place at NCFE’s headquarters in Quorum Business Park, provided the team with the knowledge and tools to recognise symptoms of mental ill health and how to approach and provide initial help to someone in a crisis. They also learned who else to guide colleagues to if professional help is needed, as well as how to be mindful of their own wellbeing.

“The MHFAss form a support system to anyone who feels that they, a colleague, or a loved one are suffering from mental ill health and to offer support and guidance on how to get help,” said Caitlin Ferguson, People Advisor and NCFE Health Advocate. “We’re also there to identify signs and approach any colleagues we feel may be suffering.”

After the initial two days of training, the HR team have continued to work with the newly formed team of MHFAs, providing support to put together a process that the team are all comfortable with. This involves arranging for external supervision and booking in monthly catch-ups so that the team can support one another and identify common themes in the issues they’re dealing with, allowing more in-depth support to be provided to colleagues across the business.

This new programme of Mental Health support might have been much more difficult to access, if NCFE weren’t part of the Better Health at Work Award.

The framework provided by Better Health at Work and support from NCFE’s assessor, Maureen Turner, has enabled a good programme of support to be put in place around a number of campaigns and issues which can affect people at work and home including mental health, nutrition and exercise, sun awareness, display screen equipment and addiction.

For more information on the award visit www.betterhealthatworkne.org or contact Maureen Turner, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust health improvement practitioner specialist on 0191 270 4514. Northumbria Healthcare provides free one to one support to businesses who want to improve the health of their workforce and delivers the Better Health and Work Award alongside Newcastle City Council in the North of Tyne area.

Author: Aneliese Thurgood and NCFE’s Wellbeing Team

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