The HSE’s updated first aid guidance states companies should consider ways to “manage mental ill health in your workplace which are appropriate for your business”.
According to the guidance, this could include providing information or training for managers and employees, employing occupational health professionals, appointing mental health-trained first aiders and implementing employee support programmes.
The updated guidance comes just days after 50 business leaders wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister, which calls for a change in the law to protect mental health in the workplace.
The open letter was organised by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England and specifically calls on ministers to amend health and safety legislation to put mental and physical first aid on an equal footing.
“The guidance is an important step towards supporting employees’ mental health but we are clear that equality will only truly be reached when the law demands that every workplace must make provision for mental, as well as physical, first aid,” said MHFA England Chief executive, Simon Blake.
“We look forward to achieving legislative change so that Health and Safety regulations are designed to protect our whole health, mental and physical.”
Thames Water’s Chief Health, Safety & Security Officer, Karl Simons, added: “Mental Health First Aiders at Thames Water have been a catalyst for engagement, providing our employees with the confidence to come forward and seek support at their time of need.
“The HSE’s new guidance is a welcome step forward, but legislative change is needed if we want see real progress across society. At Thames Water we record five mental health first aid interventions for every physical first aid intervention, so it’s essential that every workplace has access to first aid support for both mental and physical health.”
St John Ambulance has also welcomed the news, releasing statement which read: “St John Ambulance firmly believes that taking care of our own and one another’s mental wellbeing, whether it’s managing stress, depression or another condition, is as important as looking after physical illness.
“As a practical starting point, business leaders can ensure they have an appropriate number of trained mental health first aiders among their workforces and for the last 15 months, we have been helping them to do this.”
In separate news, a survey by the health-tech firm Mynurva has found that 32% of all UK adults in full-time employment have suffered from mental health problems in the workplace.
Of those people who have suffered from mental health in the workplace, a third (37%) have never sought any professional help for their mental health problems and 44% have never disclosed their issues to a manager at work.
“Mynurva’s research shines a light on just how many people in full-time work across the UK are suffering in silence with their mental health problems,” said Mynurva Chief Executive, Dr Zain Sikafi.
“Clearly, employees still live in fear of what will happen to their careers and colleague relationships if they were to open up about the problems they are facing, and this is a serious concern.”
The updated HSE first aid guidance is available to read online.