From the British royal family to the highest echelons of Hollywood, more and more high-profile people are placing huge importance on mental health and the need to look after it, talk about it and remove any stigma or embarrassment about admitting to having problems around it. The fundamental truth about mental health is that problems can hit anyone, at any time with little to no notice. Stress, anxiety and feelings of depression can overwhelm us and prevent us from functioning as we would wish to, making the most of our home life and meeting our work-related targets.
A growing area for many psychologists, coaches and business leaders is around mental health first aid – taking positive steps to safeguard your mental health and actively treating any related issues rising before they become catastrophic. Not before time, as a recent survey of 140 companies conducted by Dolan Contractor Group revealed that almost 90% of UK workers are suffering from ‘executive stress’ as a direct result of their job or workload. Issued cited include long working hours, excessive demands from managers and pressure from deadlines and clients.
The issue is directly affecting
employers too, as the same survey revealed a reported 68 million GP appointment
were made due to stress at work last year, along with three million emergency
department visits. These absences from work and their associated costs, e.g.
for temporary cover, sick pay etc., are costing a great deal of money, as well
as palpable distress and concern for everyone involved. The total cost of
mental ill health in England is estimated to be £105 billion, according to MHFA
So, what is MHFA and how does it work?
This is where Mental Health First Aid, or MHFA, comes in. Mental Health First Aid England is a social enterprise dedicated to supporting people’s mental health through expert guidance and training. MHFA courses allow business leaders and others affected by or interested in mental health concerns issues to explore the issues and preconceptions around it, spot the signs of poor mental health and learn how to intervene appropriately. It also encourages people to let go of any feelings of stigma or shame around discussing it and seek help if necessary.
MHFA courses combine face-to-face
teaching with digital recourses and plenty of space to debate, research and
discuss the topics at hand. Participants are asked to come with an open mind,
inquisitive approach and desire to help and support both themselves and other
people who are suffering with problems caused by poor mental health. The
sessions are led by a network of certified and mentored instructors who are also
members of MHFA England. MHFA is the only organisation in England providing
this kind of training and the programme is accredited by the Royal Society for
Public Health. So, you know you will be
in good hands.
How can MHFA make me a better leader?
Today’s business leaders must become so much more than simply a project manager or figurehead. They must be a champion for their employees, speaking up for them when necessary and helping them identify, secure and retain the mind-set and mental resources they need to thrive. A leader is only as good and his or her people, and knowing that you are leading people who feel supported, listened to and genuinely valued will help you build and lead a stronger, more successful and happier team.
MHFA can also help you identify and act upon signs and symptoms of stress, anxiety and poor mental health in yourself. The stronger and more resilient you feel, the better able you will be to support your team, cope with any obstacles or sudden changes of plan, come up with new innovations and ideas and take pride in your achievements – both as a leader and member of your team.
There are a great many practical ways that you as a leader can help team members dealing with mental health concerns. Knowing what to do in advance will stop you from ‘freezing up’ if you encounter someone in crisis. If you can become known as a boss who can be approached with difficult issues like these, you will be better able to gain people’s trust and to help them perform at their best for the benefit of all.
Watch out for symptoms in your team members such as loss of
memory, low self-esteem, poor appetite, fatigue and reduced levels of patience.
These may be signs that they are going through a rough time. You can help by
making yourself available to talk, being patient, understanding and kind and
offering as much help as you can with practical issues, such as allowing people
time off to see a doctor or adjusting workloads and deadlines where possible.
Contact us to find out more about Mental Health First Aid and how it can make you a better leader
 Timpson, Sir John. A Guide to Mental Health at Work, Timpson Limited, 2019. Page 38-9, 79