Yorkshire Water backs calls for mental health first aid training in the workplace

Yorkshire Water is backing calls for mental health first aid to be made compulsory in UK workplaces and given the same importance as physical first aid training.

The firm is supporting action taken by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England to encourage the Government to deliver on a manifesto pledge to put mental and physical first aid on an equal footing in the workplace. At Yorkshire Water, the firm has voluntarily introduced a mental health first aid two-day training programme that is open to all its employees. Since it was launched three years ago over 700 staff have taken part, with results including a 48 per cent drop in referrals to external counselling and a 40 per cent drop in referrals to physiotherapists.

Yorkshire Water’s MHFA programme is part of a wider strategic approach to health and wellbeing, which also includes a mental health support group supported by occupational health but run by employees, a menopause self-help group, an support group for employees having IVF, resilience workshops, suicide prevention workshops, eating disorder workshops, weight management programme, proactive back care workshops with early referral to physiotherapy, sleep hygiene workshops and a calendar of health promotion events linked to the public health agenda. The firm also uses an independent psychiatrist to fast track employees with complex mental health issues, and fast track referral to a range of therapists across a variety of disciplines.

A public campaign on the issue called ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ was launched in May 2018 by mental health campaigner Natasha Devon MBE and Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England. Over 200,000 members of the public showed their support for the campaign by signing a change.org petition, which was delivered to 10 Downing Street in October.

Susan Gee, Group Occupational Health Manager at Yorkshire Water, said: “Since we introduced mental health first aid training three years ago, our organisation has seen a staggering 48 per cent reduction in referrals to external counselling, highlighting the positive impact of building a mentally healthy workplace can bring. Nearly a third of our total workforce are now trained in Mental Health First Aid and this means they are able to effectively spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and can reach out to offer vital support and advice to their colleagues.”

Further information can be found at the campaign website www.wheresyourheadat.org.