Businesses could soon be required to provide mental health first aid training to staff.
The Conservative MP for Watford, Dean Russell, told the House of Commons that the Bill to make Mental Health First Aid a legal requirement will help people to detect the signs of problems early.
Mr Russell said: ‘We spend so much time in the workplace, yet we cannot always be ourselves when we are there. It can be hard to show our true face when times are tough because we aim, as always, to be professional. But people do not wear bandages to show where they have anxiety and depression. Many learn to hide their pain in fear of damaging their careers.
‘This Bill will simply mean that workers have a person to signpost them to the help and support they need, when they need it.’
The law was presented to Parliament as a Ten Minute Rule Bill. These Bills allow backbench MPs the opportunity to argue for a new Bill.
Mr Russell’s speech comes against a backdrop of heightened interest in mental health issues. Back in 2018, a petition from the “Where’s Your Head At!” campaign calling for mental health first aiders in every workplace gathered over 200,000 signatures. The pressures created by COVID and the subsequent economic environment have amplified awareness of the problem, and seen NHS services swamped by people looking for help.
Recent data reported by The Independent newspaper revealed that there are four times as many people waiting more than 12 hours in Accident and Emergency centres for mental health care than there were in 2020. The increase in numbers has been linked to a number of issues, including NHS staffing and resources.
Meanwhile, more than 54 percent of people surveyed last Autumn said that rising prices were affecting their mental health.
The Workers Union Says…
Mental health is one of the great problems of the age. In many respects our society has never been more connected; and yet there are millions of people who feel lonely, isolated and anxious.
It is no surprise that these feelings are particularly intense when the engine of the economy splutters. Worries about job security become scrambled with anxieties about paying the bills, leaving many workers feeling as though they’re lurching from pay cheque to pay cheque with no respite.
Just last week, this column addressed the issue of the moral responsibility to help workers. We argued that pay rises – although one of the best options – are not the only option. That is why training staff to encourage people to open up and talk about their problems should be high on any executive team’s agenda.
Taking a proactive approach makes increasing sense in the light of ongoing parliamentary discussions. It seems that now, more than ever, is the perfect time for business chiefs to steal a march on the politicians and invest more in the mental wellbeing of their staff.