The Benefits of Implementing a Mental Health First Aid Officer Program in the workplace.
A Mental Health First Aid Officer within a workplace is an employee who has undertaken additional training to provide first aid to employees who are experiencing a mental health problem. This role is similar to that of a Physical First Aid Officer within a workplace.
Mental Health First Aid Officers undertake a two-day training program to learn how to identify the signs and symptoms of a mental health problem, how to begin a conversation about mental health, and how to help the person seek appropriate professional help. Mental Health First Aid Officers are also trained to provide assistance to someone who might be experiencing a mental health crisis such as suicidal thoughts and behaviours, psychosis, or non-suicidal self-injury.
The number of Physical First Aid Officers required in the workplace depends on the risk level within the organisation. Mental Health First Aid Australia recommends that organisations should appoint at least the same number of Mental Health First Aid officers as Physical First Aid officers.
There are many benefits to appointing Mental Health First Aid Officers in the workplace. Importantly, it sends a clear message to all employees that senior management takes mental health within an organisation seriously, and are committed to improving the mental health of their employees, as well as supporting those employees with a mental illness.
Research by Beyond Blue and PWC has also shown that for every $1 spent on creating a mentally healthy workplace, there is a positive return on investment of 2.3.
These benefits include:
- Reduced compensation claims
- Increased productivity
- A reduction in employee absenteeism
In addition to the financial benefits, there are many other benefits to providing a mentally safe workplace including positive morale and employees who are more likely to disclose a mental health problem. A recent study found that more than 90% of employees surveyed stated that a mentally healthy workplace was important to them, yet only 52% of employees believed that their current place of work was mentally healthy. This study also found that mentally safe workplaces have increased awareness and reduce stigma surrounding mental illness, and were more likely to retain high performing employees.
A good Mental Health First Aid Officer program should be supported by policies and procedures. To assist organisations, Mental Health First Aid Australia has developed and published various templates on their website: https://mhfa.com.au/mental-health-first-aid-officers