Pulling the Mental Health ‘Fire Alarm’
When someone shouts fire in a workplace, or when an alarm sounds throughout the building, there’s an expectation that a designated person will be able to outline the next steps to manage everyone’s safety. There’s an expectation that your workplace isn’t leaving your physical health and safety up to chance – but is your mental health and wellbeing being held to the same standard of care?
If a colleague is experiencing a mental health crisis at work, do you have the same expectations that someone will be able to step up and outline the correct steps to take for that person’s safety?
We’re all capable of pulling the fire alarm or spotting smoke from behind a door, but we know that’s not enough; workplaces have to appoint someone who knows what to do next – a warden.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem, experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. It is not a substitution for counselling or an effort to ‘fix’ someone’s problems – it is care given until appropriate professional help can be received. In just the same way as learning physical first aid, MHFA teaches people to recognise those crucial warning signs of a mental health problem and teaches confidence to provide appropriate support, including assisting someone to seek professional help.
91% of employees believe mental health in the workplace is important, but only 52% of employees believe their workplace is mentally healthy. A mentally healthy workplace understands the role that work has in affecting mental health and the huge impact it can have on an individual. Mentally healthy workplaces put their money where their mouth is by promoting education and adopting policies and practices that create a culture of care where employees are encouraged to talk openly about mental health.
MHFA training can be offered to all staff in any given workplace setting, and it’s recommended to nominate influencers who can champion the benefits within the business.
From a trained group of Mental Health First Aiders, you can then appoint Mental Health First Aid officers, like you do with your fire warden.
Mental Health First Aid Officers are:
- Accredited Mental Health First Aiders formerly appointed to provide mental health first aid within their workplace, as required.
- Trained to provide initial informal support to other employees in the workplace, outside of Human Resources and Workplace Health & Safety departments.
- A valuable complement to other support services such as Employee Assistance Programs.
- A demonstrated way to show that your organisation cares about individual well-being.
Appointing MHFA officers within your workplace can encourage people to talk more freely about mental health. They can actively work to reduce stigma and foster a positive culture that improves cohesion, retention and engagement.
But more important than that, they’ll know what to do when someone ‘pulls the alarm’.
Learn more about implementing Mental Health First Aid training and Mental Health First Aid officers in your workplace >> https://mhfa.com.au/mental-health-first-aid-officers