In the first few minutes after an injury, providing first aid can help save limbs and lives. It is an essential act we can all perform with a little training. Now imagine providing mental health first aid. The goal is the same—to offer initial support until appropriate professional help is available—and it's just as essential.
"We tend to think that mental health issues are rare or happen to other people, but in reality, one in five of us will experience a mental illness in the course of a year," says WSPS Health and Safety Consultant Desiree D'Souza. "In this sense, it could happen to any one of us at any time."
The Mental Health Commission of Canada notes that mental health problems and illnesses typically account for 30% of disability claims and 70% of their total costs, yet only 34% of employees report having ready access to services and tools at work to help with mental health issues.
That is why Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training is so important. Like traditional first aid, MHFA does not focus on how to treat or diagnose. It provides people with the knowledge required to recognize the signs and symptoms of a possible mental health problem and gives them the tools to intervene. These symptoms may not be as obvious as a broken bone or troubled breathing but, with MHFA training, participants will gain an understanding of what to look for, which is the first step towards making help more accessible.
The second step, which many people find more difficult, is knowing how to intervene when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis. For this reason, MHFA training was recently revised to focus more on the practical skills required to start a conversation and keep someone engaged and safe.
Updated course focuses on practical skills to build confidence
Responding to workplace needs, the updated MHFA course aims to decrease the social distance from people with a mental illness and increase everyone’s confidence and comfort level in providing help. It aims to remove the stigma. "Stigma often comes from fear," explains Desiree. "People don't understand or know what to do. Stigma can not only hinder employees from seeking appropriate help for themselves, but it can also hinder co-workers and supervisors from offering help.”
The training teaches participants how to talk to someone about their declining mental well-being. It also directs participants to online and community-based resources, which can be shared back at work so that they are readily available when needed. It’s valuable training for everyone from joint health and safety committee members to supervisors, managers and others.
Why mental health is a workplace issue
The workplace can play an essential part in maintaining positive mental health. It can also contribute to mental health problems and illness. Here's a sampling of workplace factors that can influence mental health:
- organizational culture
- psychological and social support
- clear leadership and expectations
- civility and respect
- recognition and reward
- workload management
- growth and development
- psychological protection.
"From an organizational perspective," says Desiree, "MHFA can strengthen workplace culture, increase employee engagement, improve productivity, and reduce costs. This training provides knowledge and understanding, gives people more confidence, and helps them be more respectful to others. These are skills we can use not only in our workplaces but in our everyday lives."
The new MHFA course uses a blended model of self-directed eLearning, classroom-based learning, and instructor-led virtual learning. This nine-hour training starts with a self-directed module that focuses on the information and strategies participants will discuss and practice throughout modules 2 and 3, which are offered in-person and virtually. Upon registration in the course, participants will receive the MHFA Participant Reference Guide that outlines MHFA actions to approach someone experiencing a mental health problem or crisis.
How WSPS can help
- Visit WSPS' workplace mental health and employee wellbeing resource page to access complementary downloads, articles, and videos.
- Connect with your WSPS Account Manager or a member of our solutions delivery team to learn about Mental Health First Aid training opportunities with our trusted delivery partners.
The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.