HSE report shows Mental Heath First Aid training not leading to workplace improvements

Artwork: Andy Vine

The Hazards Campaign notes that HSE’s Research Report RR1135 – Summary of the evidence on the effectiveness of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training finds: ‘There is no evidence that the introduction of MHFA training in workplaces has resulted in sustained actions in those trained, or that it has improved the wider management of mental ill-health’.

This may be just a lack of research so far, but other reports also raise questions and Hugh Robertson, TUC, writing in Hazards Magazine questions whether MHFA is the right answer.

The Hazards Campaign has warned against employers adopting MHFA as a sticking plaster solution to the suppurating sore of anxiety, depression and worse caused by insecure work, low pay, excessive workloads, impossible targets, long hours, bullying, harassment and lack of support and respect at work.  Prevention of work-stress must be the first task for employers and union safety reps – to prevent work from making workers mentally ill.

We want all those suffering from mental ill-health caused by work (or unrelated) to get the proper, qualified, effective treatment and support they need. We support mental health awareness training to improve our understanding of mental-health.

“The Hazards Campaign has warned against employers adopting MHFA as a sticking plaster solution to the suppurating sore of anxiety, depression and worse caused by insecure work, low pay, excessive workloads, impossible targets, long hours, bullying, harassment and lack of support and respect at work.”

The Hazards Campaign supports and works with  union safety reps in working with employers, putting pressure on if needed, to assess for work-stress factors and remove them , and we want the HSE and Local Authorities to take enforcement action against employers who are failing in their legal duty to do this. This HSE Report makes clear there is no evidence so far that MHFA training achieves that or is effective in a workplace setting.

HSE’s Research Report: “The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training programme was first developed to train the public in providing help to adults with mental ill-health problems. Recently there has been an increase in undertaking MHFA training in workplace settings. As the regulator for workplace health and safety, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) wishes to understand the strength of the available evidence on the effectiveness of MHFA in the workplace. A rapid scoping evidence review was undertaken that considered three research questions on the impact, influence and application of MHFA training in workplaces.

A number of knowledge gaps have been identified in this evidence review that mean it is not possible to state whether MHFA training is effective in a workplace setting. There is a lack of published occupationally-based studies, with limited evidence that the content of MHFA training has been considered for workplace settings. There is consistent evidence that MHFA training raises employees’ awareness of mental ill health conditions. There is no evidence that the introduction of MHFA training in workplaces has resulted in sustained actions in those trained, or that it has improved the wider management of mental ill-health.”

One thought on “HSE report shows Mental Heath First Aid training not leading to workplace improvements”

  1. MHFAs in many ways are like those signs that say “Warning, slippery floor”. Useful and helpful but you need to address the underlying problem as well. In the case of the slippery floor that could be the application of a dry mop, issuing of appropriate anti-slip footwear or replacing the floor surface (depending on the cause of slipperiness and other genuine business needs). In the case of mental health problems that might be changes to working practices, provisions of access to counselling services (and time off for counselling if the person does not feel comfortable using employer provided counselling), much more robust bullying and harassment procedures that are actually enforced, assertive action against bullying/macho managers etc.

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