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Mental health first aid is just as important as physical first aid

03 Dec 2018

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By Angie Carr, Disability Training and Consultancy Specialist, Remploy

Around ten million adults experience a mental health issue in the UK every year*. According to a poll by YouGov, one in five people have taken a day off due to stress but 90 per cent felt unable to tell their employer that mental health was the reason.
I have worked for Remploy for more than 12 years and during that time I have seen attitudes towards mental health improve, with more people talking about their mental health alongside their physical health. Despite this, there is still a long way to go.

Mental health has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. My mother had challenges throughout her life which affected me growing up, and I have struggled as an adult with episodes of depression and anxiety. Although I’ve faced challenging times I feel that this experience helps me to empathise with others who are dealing with mental health issues.

In my role with Remploy, I deliver a range of disability-related training and have been widely involved in the implementation of the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training course. This was designed to support wellbeing in the workplace, help employers to manage sickness absence and encourage an openness about mental health as part of their workplace culture to reduce stigma.

Mental ill health costs UK employers an estimated £26 billion which equates to an average of over £1000 per employee**, so it makes sense for employers to build mental health support into their wellbeing strategy.

This year we have delivered 70 MHFA training courses and demand continues to rise. This gives me hope that employers across the UK are starting to realise that investing in the promotion of good mental health is an important part of their responsibility, as well as being much better for them and their employees. Mental health issues shouldn’t be perceived as weakness - with the right support, people can be helped back to work, or to stay in work. 
It can be a challenge to spot the signs and symptoms of mental health issues in the workplace because people can be reluctant to talk about their struggles. However, there are some telltale signs to look for, such as; negative changes in behaviour, decreased productivity, low morale or lack of cooperation.
I have learnt to understand my own triggers and I am now very proactive in looking after my mental health. I regularly meditate and do plenty of self-care that works for me, such as having a massage and taking time out to be mindful. Delivering the MHFA training and other mental health-focused courses really ensures that I focus on the good things in life and that I regularly reflect on how I am coping on a day-to-day basis.
I am passionate about promoting positive mental health. If I could do one thing in life, it would be to end the stigma and discrimination that prolongs and promotes mental health issues around the world. 
As part of this, I would encourage employers and individuals to proactively challenge negativity, promote positive workplace culture changes and learn about how to improve mental health in all areas of their life. If we all play a part, then we are one step closer to ending the stigma of mental ill health once and for all.
For more information please visit our Mental Health First Aid training page. Or explore our New Year's special offers to help you protect and maintain the mental health and wellbeing of you and your colleagues.