Norman Lamb MP is calling on the government to commit to equality for mental health in the workplace by amending health and safety legislation to require all employers to provide Mental Health First Aid.
Mr. Lamb has made the call in a Parliamentary Motion to coincide with World Mental Health Day 2016 (Monday 10th October), which this year focuses on the importance of ‘psychological and mental health first aid for all’. The campaign has been launched in collaboration with MHFA England, a leading provider of mental health first aid training across the country, with the support of the mental health charity Mind.
Currently, the main legislation which relates to first aid provision in the workplace focuses on physical illnesses and injuries and is silent on the mental wellbeing of employees. Mr. Lamb’s Early Day Motion marks the first step in a new campaign urging the Government to address this lacuna in the law, and update guidance for employers to ensure that they are clear about their obligation to support workers’ mental health.
Having staff trained in Mental Health First Aid can help to prevent someone’s condition deteriorating when they are experiencing a mental health problem, by providing initial support until professional help is received.
Last week, a major new survey by Business in the Community, in collaboration with MHFA England, found that employers across the UK are failing to provide adequate support for employees or equip managers with the skills to help them.
More than three quarters (77%) of employees have experienced poor mental health and nearly two thirds (62%) have identified work as a contributing factor, the Mental Health at Work report found. Despite this, over half of employees (56%) who disclosed symptoms of poor mental health said that their employer took no actions to address this and only 1 in 5 managers (22%) had received appropriate mental health training.
WHSmith and Unilever have now pledged to lead the way in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of employees, while also calling on other employers to bring parity to mental and physical health in the workplace by adopting Mental Health First Aid. WHSmith has committed to training 1,100 line managers in Mental Health First Aid over the next 12 months, in a bid to ensure that the company has as many mental health first aiders as it does physical first aiders.
Mental Health First Aid training provides people with the skills to recognise the symptoms of common mental health problems, provide initial support to prevent the problem from getting worse, and effectively guide a person towards the right support services. To date, almost 150,000 people in England are trained in Mental Health First Aid.
Norman Lamb MP, who recently became a trained Mental Health First Aider and has written to the Work and Pensions Secretary to request a meeting to discuss a possible change to the law, said:
“The bias towards physical health in first aid legislation is a clear example of the discrimination against mental health in society, which cannot possibly be justified at a time when more and more people are reporting that they have struggled with mental health problems at work.
“If mental health is to be treated in exactly the same way as physical health, every organisation should have trained Mental Health First Aiders just like they have physical first aiders – and I am in no doubt that this important principle should be enshrined in law.
“On a personal level, my eye-opening experience of Mental Health First Aid training was not only incredibly helpful but also emotionally powerful. Most of all, it brought home the absolute importance of listening to people’s concerns, giving them time to express themselves and making sure they understand that there’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.
“If we can stop people’s condition deteriorating and guide them to help, we can have a big impact on their lives. Sickness absence and unemployment related to mental illness is an enormous burden on the economy, so the economic as well as the moral case for all employers to adopt Mental Health First Aid is overwhelming.
“I am very pleased to highlight this important issue in Parliament on World Mental Health Day, particularly given this year’s theme of ‘psychological and mental first aid for all’. The Government should act without delay to amend first aid legislation to include mental health, and make it clear that employers’ responsibilities in the workplace relate to the mental as well as the physical wellbeing of staff.”
Poppy Jaman, CEO and co-founder of Mental Health First Aid says:
“Our workplaces need to undergo a transformation. Mental health issues (stress, depression or anxiety) account for almost 70 million days off sick per year, the most of any health condition. Millions of employees feel unsupported and employers must act now to retain top talent and boost productivity.
“We will only make headway when employers value mental health as they do physical health. Mental Health First Aid is a key part of the solution which is why, on World Mental Health Day, we are calling on the government to amend current legislation that requires employers to train staff in physical first aid, to include mental health first aid.”
EDM: Mental Health First Aid
That this House notes with concern that the current first aid legislation fails to make adequate provision for mental ill health; notes that the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 neglect the mental health of employees, and that the examples of health problems requiring first aid in the Health and Safety Executive’s Guidance on the Regulations relate exclusively to physical health; acknowledges that the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 refer to the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work activities, but that this does not address mental health issues caused by factors outside of work but which may nevertheless affect health and wellbeing in the workplace; recognises that only 43 percent of people with mental health problems are in employment, compared to 74 percent of the general population and 65 percent of people with other health conditions, with the cost of mental illness to the economy estimated at around £105 billion annually; believes that addressing mental health more effectively in the workplace, in order to help people recover and avoid people falling out of work, must be a key public policy objective; and therefore urges the Government to commit to the principle of equality for mental health in the workplace by amending first aid regulations and guidance to require every organisation to have trained Mental Health First Aiders, and ensure that employers are aware that their first aid obligations relate both to physical and mental health issues.