Why mental health first aid training can fail?

With mental health costing the UK economy between £74 billion and £99 billion a year, businesses have invested in mental health first aid training to assist their workforce, however, a health and wellbeing advice service has identified the top five reasons why this training could fail.

Towergate Health & Protection, an independent insurance broking service for businesses and individuals who specialise in health and wellbeing advice have warned companies why this training may not reap the rewards the company intends it to.

  • Papering over the cracks

Towergate said for mental health first aid training to have an impact, it must be part of a culture that supports mental wellbeing, and for some businesses, this might need quite a shift. Some companies may have an open culture but not provide support; some may provide support but not have a culture that encourages its use, and neither approaches are conducive to a mental wellbeing initiative being successful.

  • Training the wrong staff

The health and wellbeing advice service warned that the temptation can be to train staff based on their level of seniority. However, the decision about who to train should be much more considered,  just because staff are senior, they may not necessarily be best placed to hold such positions. If a business trains a manager in mental health first aid who may have a reputation internally for not being approachable, that training needs to be accompanied by some more general training and development of the manager’s interpersonal skills to achieve the desired outcome.

The add that an individual who puts themselves forward for training, because they have an interest in the subject due to experience of mental health issues among friends or family, may not necessarily have the resilience or objectivity required for the role. An interest in the subject should not by itself be a reason for selecting an individual for training, employers also need to think about the ability of the individual to deal with what can be a sensitive subject.

  • No time to deliver support

    The company added employees may not volunteer for mental health first aid training as they don’t have the time, or don’t want the responsibility. But just as first aiders aren’t expected to take on the role of a paramedic or GP, it’s important to explain to employees that mental health first aiders are there to spot the warning signs of an issue and then signpost individuals to further help, not actually deliver ongoing care.

  • Blurring boundaries

Towergate explained that it’s also possible that an employee that builds up a good reputation as being a talented mental health first aider, can find themselves in demand from a wide selection of employees – which can distract them from their day job. It’s important that a quality selection of mental health first aiders is available to employees so that pressure doesn’t mount on one individual. Equally, line managers need to be aware, and accept, that mental health first aiders may be required to fulfill their duties, with little or no notice, to help someone

  • Impact not measured

The company concluded that measurements need to be put in place to track whether mental health first aiders are having a positive impact on a business. Running open forums, and giving staff the opportunity to air mental health concerns in a confidential group setting, or running a staff engagement survey, can be used to monitor whether employees feel better supported with their mental wellbeing.

Brett Hill, distribution director at Towergate Health & Protection, said:

The subject of mental health is rightfully receiving a lot of attention at present, but businesses risk making a knee-jerk reaction to the issue by implementing solutions before the organisation is truly prepared to make lasting change. It’s important that businesses look at the culture of their organisation and the people working within it, to see how best to address mental health within the context of their business. It’s no good having a culture that’s open, but not having staff that are trained to support mental wellbeing; and vice versa, having staff trained to support mental wellbeing but a culture that doesn’t support mental health is going to fail. The right foundations need to be laid to ensure that any initiatives implemented, such as mental health first aid training, are truly impactful.





Darius is the editor of HRreview. He has previously worked as a finance reporter for the Daily Express. He studied his journalism masters at Press Association Training and graduated from the University of York with a degree in History.