Every business has a first aid kit in the cupboard for those unexpected physical injuries. But how many businesses are prepared to administer Mental Health First Aid?
We have all experienced personal challenges getting in the way of us doing our jobs well. After all, life happens and difficulties come up. Around 1 in 5 Australian adults experience a common mental illness each year – this is no small issue. Some people are better at masking their suffering than others.
Mental Health First Aid is incredibly valuable because it helps business owners and management identify whether their team members are struggling with complex personal issues, or strictly performance issues.
Unfortunately, many managers will steer away from personal conversations with their team members because they don’t have the skills to confidently navigate them. Where would you even begin? As managers, we are not trained to be therapists, approaching a team member about their mental health still feels taboo, and awkward. Many feel like becoming involved in an employee’s problems may cross the line of the working relationship.
The Benefits of Mental Health First Aid
This is where Mental Health First Aid is so beneficial. 21st Century Leadership. We don’t need to be therapists. Instead, we are taught to notice the behavioural and physical signs of when a team member might be struggling with mental health challenges. We learn how to connect with the team member in a caring and compassionate way. We learn how to ask effective questions and listen well to assess broadly what is happening. Our task is then to support the person in seeking the help they need.
Building trust is very important. Many team members might not open up the first time, it takes a lot of trust to open up to the boss. If you follow up a week or two later, they will see and feel you are genuine and want to help.
Training that Helps Everyone in the Workplace
The rewards of Mental Health First Aid are Many.
Team members feel valued and supported
People suffering from Mental Health Problems can get the professional support they need
Managers feel confident and capable of approaching their team regarding their mental health
Know what to say, and what NOT to say
Make a real difference to a person’s life and wellbeing
A 2014 research study conducted by Beyond Blue and PwC into Australian workplaces found for every $1 invested in taking action to create a mentally healthy workplace, Australian companies see on average a $2.30 return in value.
Overall, you have a happier, more productive workplace, and managers can deal with performance more effectively by separating personal matters.
The final benefit of mental health first aid may be the most valuable. Managers and owners will contribute to lowering the stigma of mental health problems and mental illness in our workplaces, families and communities. This will have a powerful ripple effect in lessening feelings of shame and guilt, ultimately enabling people to seek help sooner, and recover faster.
Remember, managers don’t have to be therapists. But they can show they care for their staff, without getting too involved. Team members will feel more appreciated as people, not just someone who does a job.