First Aid for Mental Health

28 November 2018

Author: Ashleigh Birkett
Practice Area: Health and Safety


The Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) has published updated first aid guidance to help employers manage mental ill health in the workplace.

The guidance states: “HSE cannot tell you what provision you should make for first aid. You, as an employer, are best placed to understand the exact nature of your workplace and decide what you need to provide”.[1]

Employers will already be aware of the need to conduct a first aid needs assessment in order to determine what first aid provision may be required.However, the updated guidance notes now advise that, following this assessment, an employer may consider it appropriate to train some members of staff as mental health first aiders.Other suggestions for managing this issue may include the provision of information, training, support programmes, or even involving occupational health professionals.

HSE notes that mental health first aid courses will teach participants to: “recognise warning signs of mental ill health and help them to develop the skills and confidence to approach and support someone, while keeping themselves safe”.

According to HSE’s annual statistics for Great Britain (2017-2018), some 15.4 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety.Alarmingly, this accounted for 57% of all working days lost due to ill health.

Whilst the updated guidance may be welcomed, some employers believe that the law should be changed to make the provision of mental health first aid a mandatory step rather than a voluntary one.Indeed in an open letter to the Prime Minister, around 50 business leaders have called for legislative change to make equal provision for mental and physical first aid in the workplace.

The debate in relation to tackling mental health in the workplace appears to have intensified in recent years.It will be interesting to see whether this is ultimately reflected in legislative change.

For further information, or to obtain specific legal advice in relation to any questions arising from this article, please contact Ashleigh Birkett or Ben Johnston on +44 (0)28 9024 4951.