Record number of mental health first aiders trained

A new study has revealed that Britain is training record numbers of workplace ‘mental health first aiders’ to confront a sharp rise in people expressing mental distress.

National training body, Mental Health First Aid England, said 140,000 people were trained in 2018-19 – the most ever in a single year, from local hairdressers to employees in global corporations. However, the Guardian claims that evidence of success is mixed.

The figures show that larger companies are leading the way in training staff in mental health first aid, with more than half of the FTSE 100 companies having mental health first aiders. Amongst them, Lloyds Banking Group has a programme to train 2,500 by next year, while National Grid and Severn Trent both have more than 1,000.

There is concern that mental health first aiders are being viewed as a panacea when actually their impact can be quite limited. Amongst those doubting their success, the Health and Safety Executive said that ‘there is limited evidence that MHFA training leads to sustained improvement in the ability of those trained to help colleagues experiencing mental ill health’.

Warning that a two-day training course does not produce instant experts, experts in workplace health claim that some recruits might not be the best people for what is a subtle role, and warn that first aiders need support and supervision themselves to ensure their own well-being.