• Brendon Ward
    What's your organisation's experience of mental health first aid courses?
  • Sarah Becker
    It has helped our people leaders gain more confidence on what to do with a worker suffering a mental health crisis and understand the differences of mental health issues.
    Ambulance at the bottom of the cliff though but has given our people leaders some confidence.
  • Chris Peace
    Does it make some people feel they are helping? Yes.
    Does it work? Probably not.
    Does it cause harm? Sometimes.
    Would you ask a first aider to treat a serious injury? No, you'd get the victim to a doctor.
    Read the research evidence published by the UK HSE.
    Bell, N., Evans, G., Beswick, A., & Moore, A. (2019). Summary of the evidence on the effectiveness of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training in the workplace [Research Report RR1135]. Health and Safety Executive, Sudbury https://www.hse.gov.uk/research/publish.htm
    Workplace Health Expert Committee. (2021). Evaluating interventions in work-related ill health and disease [Evidence Review Paper WHEC-17]. Health and Safety Executive, https://www.hse.gov.uk/research/workplace-health-expert-committee.htm
  • Amy Richards
    Hi Brendon,

    Full disclosure before I carry on that I am a Mental Health First Aid instructor, so of course that means I support the program, but I will try and give some advice as someone who has also spent many years in the H&S space.

    The first thing to know is that not all mental health first aid courses are the same. It is not trained to a NZQA standard and therefore there are many MHFA products on the market that you can attend and come out calling yourself a MH first aider. Effectively there is no national or external oversight of the training quality/content/quantity of the different products.

    The exception to this is MHFA Aotearoa which is who I am affiliated with (I know this sounds like a sales pitch but it’s not!) and I like to think that this program goes beyond teaching knowledge, but it is also about ensuring capability. This is the only program accredited with MHFA International which has international oversight of the content. Research into the effectiveness of this course has been ongoing since 2000 and there is an extensive amount of research that clearly indicates the effectiveness of the program. Read more here: https://mhfainternational.org/mhfa-program-evaluations/

    I also think it’s really important to remember that MHFA is mental health literacy 101. For most people, this is the very first time in their life that someone has sat down to talk to them about mental health. Just like first aid doesn’t teach you to be a doctor, MHFA is not teaching you to be a therapist, and we should never expect a mental health first aider to act in lieu of a therapist. A mental health first aider is the first response to identify a change in a person and encourage them to seek professional help.

    Its also important to remember that MHFA plays only one part of an integrated approach to mentally healthy work. It is not a one stop solution to fix all the problems in a company, just like regular first aid does not stop vehicle accidents at work. But first aid training is an integral part of our risk management process, because no one can ever fully 100% guarantee that you can control all risks within a workplace (and I have yet to see someone say that we should stop training in regular first aid).

    Lastly, I think all training and awareness in the mental health space can make a positive difference. The latest suicide statistics for NZ came out recently, and while one suicide is one too many, it has now been the 3rd year on year reduction in suicide numbers, and this is the lowest (statistically significant) average rate in the last 13 years. This is progress in the right direction. I wish you all the best finding something suitable for your team.
  • Chris Anderson

    Would you ask a first aider to treat a serious injury? No, you'd get the victim to a doctor.

    No one excepts a mental health first aider to treat a serious mental health issues. Primarily they're there to seek out the signs, raise the issue, and help people find the right support. There are other benefits too, like reducing the stigma around discussing mental health.

    From the HSE study cited:

    There is a lack of published occupationally‐based studies, and the studies that have been conducted are limited in quality.
    - So there's not enough evidence to draw the conclusion that MHFA programmes probably don't work.

    There is consistent evidence that MHFA training raises employees’ awareness of mental ill‐health
    conditions, including signs and symptoms. Those trained have a better understanding of where to find information and professional support, and are more confident in helping individuals experiencing mental ill‐health or a crisis.
    - So there is evidence of positive outcomes of MHFA

    There is no evidence from the published evaluation studies that the introduction of MHFA
    training in workplaces has resulted in sustained actions by those receiving the training or that it
    has improved the management of mental health in the workplace.
    There is limited evidence that the content of MHFA training has been considered for workplace
    - So we can probably agree that there needs to be research into this area, and there should be a particular focus on the New Zealand context. Our culture, and needs would be different from those in the UK.
  • Laraine
    My clients who have attended MHFA courses, and suicide awareness courses, have all said it has given them the confidence to talk to a person who is having a mental health event, or to recognise when someone may be feeling mentally unwell, to know how to respond and who to contact for help. I think this is what it's supposed to do. Given the high number of suicides in the construction industry, I think that's a plus!
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