Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) - what are they and why do you need them?

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World Mental Health Day


  • 1 in 6 working-age adults have symptoms associated with mental ill health
  • Mental ill health is the second-largest source of burden of disease in England
  • Mental illnesses are more common, long-lasting and impactful than other health conditions
  • Mental ill health is responsible for 319 million working days lost and costs £43 billion each year and some sources believe this could be higher, as much as 56 million (source: MHFA England)
  • We are investing in mental and emotional health of our staff - by training a cohort of Mental Health First Aiders to spot the early signs of mental ill-health in others.

Here at Claritas, we believe that mental wellbeing is just as important as physical wellbeing. Did you know that 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year, with around 792 million people being affected by mental health issues worldwide?

A recent report highlights that the cost of worker absences on UK businesses has increased from an estimated £33 billion between January and November 2019 to £43 billion between January and November 2021, a 31% increase. Meanwhile, the amount of time taken off by employees for illness has risen from approximately 250 million days in 2019 to more than 319 million in 2021. People with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health condition.

Physical First Aiders are a workplace requirement for all businesses. The number of employees in your organisation and the level of risk in your workplace will determine how many first aiders you need. Yet there is no legal requirement for Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) in the workplace… but is there an ethical one?

That’s why we are investing in having a number of MHFAs!

What is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental Health First Aid began in Australia back in 2001, but now is more and more common place with MHFAs appearing in many countries around the world and including the UK. A MHFA is the first point of contact in encouraging people to speak about emotional matters and mental struggles more openly and positively in the workplace. Hopefully diluting the stigma that still surrounds mental health.

Talking to colleagues

What do MHFAs do?

Generally, the purpose of a MHFA is to be a point of contact for employees if they are experiencing emotional distress or suffering in silence with mental health problems, such as stress, anxiety or depression, for example. They are trained to spot the early signs of mental ill-health in others. They are taught to confidently signpost someone to appropriate support, both internal and external, and they are equipped to deal with emergencies too - such as psychosis, thoughts of suicide, or attempted suicide.

It is important to note however - that MHFAs are not qualified therapists/counsellors/psychiatrists. They cannot advise, but they can listen and offer support options. They are trained to:

  • Maintain confidentiality (unless someone’s physical safety or life is at risk)
  • Spot early signs of mental ill-health
  • Assess the risk of self-harm or suicide
  • Listen to what people are saying without judgement
  • Know when to contact the emergency services (if that is required)
  • Care for their own physical safety and mental wellbeing
  • Know how to start a conversation with someone who may be experiencing emotional or mental ill-health
  • Encourage people to use additional support that is available, including internal and external support systems
  • Complete critical incident documents where necessary

Our next steps

As a caring organisation, we want to help to lighten any mental or emotional load that someone who works for us may be carrying by actively listening and signposting them to further help if they need or want it. Sometimes providing a listening ear is all that is required.

Our vision in this health space is for all our colleagues to benefit from the change in conversations and attitude surrounding mental health, by providing a more supportive and open company culture, where we look after each other within our Claritas work family.

To find out more about us, click the links below: