Rise in mental health issues due to pandemic – employer case study and new online training support for employers

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, the social enterprise offering expert guidance and training to support mental health in the workplace and beyond, has reacted quickly to rules around social distancing by adapting and moving their training courses online.

Coronavirus is having a huge direct and indirect impact on people’s lives. Many face financial insecurity, additional caring responsibilities, health worries and an uncertain future. It’s quite understandable that millions of UK adults have felt panicked, afraid and unprepared because of the pandemic. Since March 2020, MHFA England has seen a spike of almost 75,000 people accessing its mental health resources including materials on how to effectively work remotely.

In response to the demand and in only six weeks, MHFA England has made much of its training available online. With many teams working remotely, and some seeking support as they transition back to a physical workplace, it is now more important than ever that colleagues feel connected and able to ask for help if they need it. The courses develop employees’ skills and knowledge to have effective mental health conversations with their colleagues. Through the training, people can learn to support friends, family and colleagues by learning about mental health and how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue.

MHFA England is calling on all employers to build a mental health and wellbeing strategy in line with the core standard for employers set out in the Government’s Thriving at Work review. These standards include raising mental health awareness and encouraging conversation about the support available – offering mental health first aid training is one key part of this approach.

Commenting on the launch of the online training, Simon Blake OBE, Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England said:

We are proud to be able to support the nation’s mental health during this current crisis. People’s mental health is being impacted by this pandemic and those who are struggling need to feel comfortable in speaking up. In turn managers must feel confident in having those conversations with colleagues and signposting them to further help. Now is the time to ensure mental health is at the top of the Boardroom agenda for the sake of every individual’s wellbeing and for the continued survival and fight back of businesses and the economy.Mental Health First Aid training plays on key part in ill mental health prevention and support. It should be one part of an organisation’s wellbeing strategy, signalling to employees a long-term commitment to improving mental health in the workplace.”

Karl Simons, Chief Health, Safety & Wellbeing Officer at Thames Water, says

The impact COVID-19 is having on our teams is huge. This means that now more than ever we have a duty of care to support our staff. We saw the benefits of mental health first aid long before lockdown and since the introduction of social distancing our mental health first aiders have quickly adapted the support they provide. Now, with around 50% of the company working from home people can still come forward, talk and seek support at their time of need. We see roughly one mental health intervention everyday, which means we are able to offer the vital early support our people need to remain in work and due to the pandemic and lockdown measures we are now seeing a change in the triggers of anxiety.

MHFA England’s online courses will help ensure all our mental health first aiders, wherever they are working, feel confident giving support and reassurance to staff who are experiencing difficulties brought on by the pandemic. Online Refresher training will empower our mental health first aiders during this period, but also allow them to connect and have open and informal discussions with peers, just as a face to face course would.

More than ever, businesses are relying on the flexibility and hard work of their teams and in return they must show kindness and understanding of the pressures many currently face. Investing in long-term mental health support by training staff in mental health first aid skills is one way they can do this.”

Over 500,000 people have been trained in Mental Health First Aid England skills which means they are able to recognise mental ill health and help people find the support they need to stay well. In England alone, the social enterprise has trained people in over 20,000 organisations and it is calling on its network of Mental Health First Aiders and Instructors to support those in need.

For more information visit: https://mhfaengland.org/online-mental-health-courses/