A new law requiring businesses to offer mental health first aid training has been presented to parliament by Tory MP Dean Rusell.
The proposal follows data from Health and Safety England (HSE) which found that stress, depression, and anxiety accounted for half (51 per cent) of work-related illness last year. Between 2021/2022, HSE found that mental illness accounted for 914,000 new or long-standing ill health.
HSE also found that in 2021/22, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic were found to be a major contributory factor to work related stress, depression, or anxiety.
Mental Health First Aid programs are currently being actively delivered in 24 countries, with over 5 million people world-wide having received training.
Mr Russell told the Commons that the move will lead to more people spotting the early signs of mental health issues in the workplace, stating that the training will “save lives”. Many businesses already offer mental health training to first aiders, but it is not a legal requirement.
On the recent proposal to the Commons Monica Shafaq, CEO at the Kaleidoscope Plus Group said: “At Kaleidoscope Plus Group we welcome the proposal that businesses should offer mental health training for employees as a legal requirement and help remove the stigma that surrounds it. This proposal is step in the right direction, but it is only the beginning.”
Russell told MPs that the Bill will “simply mean that workers have a person to signpost them to the help and support they need, when they need it” and that it could limit the long-term impact of mental health on businesses and “prevent losing others in the future”.
Monica Shafaq, CEO at the Kaleidoscope Plus Group added: “For a long time now mental health and physical health have been treated as two separate entities but, to give mental health first aid and physical first aid the same significance in the eyes of the law would be a huge step forward. Around 30% of the people we see for counselling, are seeking support due to work related stress.
“This would also act as vital demonstration from employers that they are committed to looking after their workforces physical and mental health, which are both incredibly important and undoubtedly linked. In reality, you are more likely to come across colleagues suffering with their emotional wellbeing than a colleague who is having a heart attack.
“It is vital that it is embedded as part of wellbeing strategy so that this invaluable training forms part of a wider framework of support.” For more information about the charity and the support it offers visit www.kaleidoscopeplus.org.uk