HSE Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have announced changes to the guidance covering employers’ responsibilities to their employees. Employers now need to consider making provision to cover Mental Health First Aid training in addition to First Aid at Work training.


How will the HSE changes affect me?

Employers need to treat mental health in a similar way to physical health. Employers are encouraged to take steps to consider employee’s mental health in order to support their employee’s wellbeing to provide a safe working environment. A needs assessment of the workplace could be undertaken and strategies implemented to address any risks and needs highlighted.

This is a recommendation, not legislation, so there is no set date when workplaces will have to have sufficient mental health provision.


What action should I take?

Due to recent HSE guidance, organisations should consider:

  • Ensuring that their health and safety risk assessments take into account of mental – not just physical – health and risks

  • Managing and mitigating the risks of harm in the workplace and having ways to support people with mental health issues

  • Treating mental health in a similar way to physical health - such as by having as many first aiders for mental health as for physical health (if appropriate).


In light of this guidance, organisations may feel it is beneficial to:

  • Have qualified Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace. This includes adequate cover for periods of absence or multiple workplace sites. Some training courses, such as St John Ambulance Mental Health First Aid training courses, are accredited by Mental Health First Aid England. View our courses here.

  • Consider the recommendations (‘Core Standards’ ) of the Thriving at Work: Stevenson/Farmer review

  • Encourage all staff to maintain a mentally healthy workplace through mental health awareness training or resources.

  • Ensure that HR policies and practices recognise the needs of those with mental health conditions. Read our advice on conducting a Mental Health Risk Assessment and creating a workplace wellbeing policy.

  • Have a clear and well – communicated mental health wellbeing policy. Our research suggests 80% of employees weren’t sure if their company had a mental health wellbeing policy. By failing to respond appropriately to an employee with a mental health issue, an organisation may open itself to a claim for compensation. This could be lengthy, expensive, and take precious time away from managers and staff.


What is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental Health First Aid is one element of mental health provision in the workplace. Mental Health First Aid training courses teach managers and staff how to spot signs and symptoms of common mental health issues, provide non-judgemental support and reassurance, and guide a person to seek professional support they may need to recover.

Mental Health First Aiders are employees who have received training in Mental Health First Aid. Just like physical first aid, it will teach an individual how to listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis – and even potentially stop a crisis from happening.


How many Mental Health First Aiders do I need?

Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it.

It is a government priority to establish parity between physical and mental health first aid, therefore we recommend that employers should be striving to achieve parity between the two provisions within the workplace.

Depending on the size of your workforce, you may need to train an appropriate number of Mental Health First Aiders.


What hasn’t changed?

The new guidance doesn’t replace any existing guidance for employers regarding First aid at work. Provision of care within the workplace is not intended to replace professional mental health care/therapy. The Mental Health First Aid courses do not enable an individual to act as a mental health professional such as therapist or psychiatrist.

There is already existing guidance and regulations around stress in the workplace, in addition to this latest guidance. For example, HSE guidance for stress in the workplace state that employees have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it. HSE’s Management Standards approach to tackling work-related stress establishes a framework across six key areas of work to help employers tackle work-related stress and, as a result, also reduce the incidence and negative impact of mental ill health.


Which Mental Health First Aid course is right for me?

St John Ambulance provides 5 courses to suit a variety of employee needs. All our courses are accredited by Mental Health First Aid England.

Courses include:


Why train with St John Ambulance?

St John Ambulance is the nation’s largest first aid training provider, delivering quality training courses that enable thousands of people to save lives.

We’re using our extensive training experience in collaboration with Mental Health First Aid England to deliver internationally recognised Mental Health First Aid courses. So far, we've taken over 6,000 bookings for our Mental Health First Aid courses. In 2019, we are expanding our suite of courses and will be delivering Youth Mental Health First Aid training courses for professionals working with young people.

We are committed to improving mental health in the workplace; our Embedding Mental Best Practices in the Workplace Summit 2018 will be a key opportunity for professionals to learn from industry leaders and clinical experts on how to implement a resilient and practical approach to workplace mental health and stress.


Will there be future changes?

The guidance around mental health is constantly evolving to meet the needs of the modern workforce. We're here to cut through the complexities and make sure you have everything you need to stay on top of your workplace first aid requirements. There are several ways to make sure you know everything you need to:



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What have Mental Health First Aid England said?

Simon Blake OBE, CEO Mental Health First Aid England commented:

“We have worked in close collaboration with HSE to ensure that mental health is explicit in the guidance that employers refer to when assessing their needs around First Aid, so we very much welcome today’s announcement. There is no golden bullet when it comes to workplace mental health and Mental Health First Aid training is just one part of the wider strategic approach that we recommend organisations adopt.

“Today’s guidance is an important step towards supporting employees’ mental health but we are clear that equality will only truly be reached when the law demands that every workplace must make provision for mental, as well as physical, first aid. We look forward to achieving legislative change so that Health and Safety regulations are designed to protect our whole health, mental and physical.”

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