Most people know how to treat a cold or flu, but knowing how to treat low mood or depression is more elusive.
That’s why I decided to set up as a freelance instructor offering Mental Health First Aid training to the business sector and the community in general. For the business sector, providing managers with the skills to recognise distress in an employee and to have the confidence to administer help in a first aid situation will have a positive impact on reducing long term sickness absence and lost productivity. Studies have shown that early intervention is crucial so that problems can be addressed before they escalate into more serious issues, which results in better outcomes for all concerned.
However, this training is intended for a variety of audiences: friends and family of individuals with mental illness or addiction, school and college personnel, community groups, religious groups or anyone interested in learning more about mental illness. I believe this course is essential for mental health promotion throughout the workplace and in our communities. It will help to tackle the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental health and break the silence on this taboo subject.
At least one in five adults in Northern Ireland may suffer from some form of common mental health disorder in any one year. Over half of us will have a mental health problem at some time in our lifetime. It is also estimated that the rate of mental health problems in Northern Ireland is 20-25% higher than the rest of the UK.
So how does this affect business?
As the majority of these people are likely to be in paid employment the Health & Safety Executive NI estimates that the cost of working days lost to mental ill health may be as much as £125 million per year. Despite the high number of people experiencing mental health problems, employer awareness of mental health issues at work in the UK is poor. Most senior managers vastly underestimate the scale of the problem and most think it will never affect their workplaces.
Mental Health First Aid was developed in Australia in 2000 and now internationally recognised in twenty one countries. Numerous evaluations have demonstrated its effectiveness in addressing mental health problems and improving mental health literacy in general.
Good mental health is important for us to enjoy our daily lives. Sometimes pressures become too heavy and our mental health starts to deteriorate! When this happens we need to be able to identify the signs and know how to manage it – Mental Health First Aid can do this.
We can’t afford not to take mental health seriously. It’s time we all took responsibility to look after our own mental health and that of those around us, whether at work, home or in the community. Mental Health First Aid provides the knowledge and skills needed to raise awareness of mental health problems that affect all of us at some point in our lives.