Business Leaders Call For Mental Health First Aid Workers
By Sofy Robertson
A letter backed by British businesses calls for Theresa May to ensure mental health first aid is available in every workplace.
More than fifty companies, including Royal Mail, WH Smith and PwC, have come together to ask the prime minister to fulfil her manifesto pledge and update health and safety regulations by putting mental and physical health on an equal scale.
Their letter warns that the current burden of stress, anxiety and depression in the workplace causes an “astronomical cost” to the economy, not to mention the unmeasurable cost on the individual and their relationships.
In terms of the cost involved in training mental health first aiders, the letter argued:
“Cost cannot be a reason for objections because, in the long run, it is inevitable that making mental health first aid in the workplace mandatory will save money.” (The Independent)
A campaign launched by Mental Health First Aid England estimated that failing to address these issues costs the economy more than £35bn a year due to 15.4 million working days lost to anxiety, stress and depression. An independent review commissioned by Theresa May last year suggests the costs could be three times higher with a total loss figure of £99bn.
The Time to Change campaign has received more than 865 employer signatures pledging to take mental health conditions more seriously at work. Stephen Clarke, chief executive of WH Smith who were one of the leading businesses behind the letter to May, said:
“We are calling for this legislative change, alongside many other leading employers, as we firmly believe that everyone should have access to first aid support for their mental health regardless of where they work.”
Mental health was a leading topic at the Exeter Women of the World festival which took place at the Phoenix last month. The role of mental health first aiders was discussed as a viable strategy to prevent people from reaching crisis point before receiving intervention.
A study conducted by the mental health charity Mind earlier this year highlights the importance of mental health support in the workplace. Their findings revealed that almost half of UK workers have experienced a mental health problem at their current job. The survey of 44 000 employees showed that only half of the 48 per cent who had experienced poor mental health talked to their employer about it. This suggests that as many as one in four workers are struggling in silence with their mental health.
In response, a government spokesman said:
“The Health and Safety Executive will shortly be updating its First Aid guidance to help employers better understand the need to consider mental health alongside physical health.”