Noa Burger is Head of Responsible Business at the City of London Corporation. She leads the Corporation’s vision to inspire responsible business across UK financial and professional services.
In this guest blog, Noa writes about training as a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) instructor and the benefits of doing so for employers and employees alike, as well as workplace tips and resources for organisations hoping to take the next step in addressing mental health in the workplace.
We face a significant mental health challenge in our society, and so in our workplaces as well. The human cost can, but does not have to be devastating. And the financial cost can, but does not have to be substantial.
With 300,000 people in the UK losing their jobs each year due to mental ill health, and 15% of the working population living with symptoms of mental ill health , it’s in all our interests to create an environment and community in which we can respond to and even prevent these challenges.
Over the last year, I have trained as an instructor of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), as part of a wider effort by my employer to support its workforce and the people we meet. Perhaps not the catchiest title, but it is what it sounds like – MHFA is the mental health equivalent to physical first aid. Now a global movement with support from the Prime Minister and gaining traction in businesses, schools and community groups, MHFA aims to preserve life, prevent worsening of a condition, promote recovery and provide comfort. With the scale of impact that mental ill health has on us all, the argument for MHFA to catch up with its physical equivalent is strong.
As an instructor, I take time out of my day job to train colleagues via a two-day course that equips them with the skills to identify the signs of a mental health challenge, to provide ‘first aid’ support, and to signpost to expert support. (There are shorter courses too.) Crucially, the training builds people’s confidence in approaching and talking to others about their mental health. It breaks down assumptions that it’s not your place to ask someone if they are alright, or to listen to them without being professionally trained, or to ask them directly if they are thinking of harming themselves for fear you might put the idea in their head.
Growing a community of Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace creates a more informed, self-aware, inclusive and supportive working environment. It empowers staff to take a proactive and rewarding role with their colleagues. It upskills them in their communication and listening skills. It engages them to build better working relationships and to feel pride in their organisation’s values. For the employer, this can be the difference between a workplace culture in which people flounder, disengage and no longer perform, or one in which they thrive, are motivated and successful.
Noa’s top tips for better mental health in the workplace: