Mental health first aid a priority in the workplace

Published 27 Apr 2016

University of Tasmania Associate Professor Angela Martin has been helping devise a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) kit for the workplace.MHFA is an organisation which has devised and delivers training to help people in the community recognise and assist with the impacts of mental health issues in people around them.The organisation has trained more than one million people across the world.Professor Martin, of the University's Tasmanian School of Business and Economics (TSBE), has been collaborating with colleagues from University of Melbourne and MHFA Deputy CEO Nataly Bovopoulos to refine a program fit for the workplace."There are some nuances to the employment relationship that have to be considered when delivering MHFA training in a workplace setting [including] how mental health issues might be factored into performance management processes, how to manage absences from work and how to deal with an employee's privacy and colleagues' reactions," Assoc Prof Martin said.She said knowing how to respond appropriately and effectively to situations that potentially involved a mental health issue was important, but workplaces also could create environments which prevented their onset.To that end, Assoc Prof Martin has also been involved in the development of a set of guidelines for organisations which aim to promote prevention of common mental health disorders through actions that can be taken by leaders, supervisors and employees."There is a legal obligation not to cause or exacerbate mental ill health and there are many workplace benefits to promoting and protecting the well being of staff," she said."Organisations need an integrated and strategic approach to make sure staff at all levels understand how these issues affect the organisation and have the capabilities to manage them.""Our team at the University of Tasmania is doing a lot of work in this area and we are collaborating nationally and internationally on research that aims to better equip organisations to deal with these issues."The MHFA guidelines can be found at https://mhfa.com.au/sites/default/files/mhfa_workplace_guidelines.pdfand the prevention guidelines can be found at https://mhfa.com.au/sites/default/files/GUIDELINES-for-workplace-prevention-of-mental-health-problems.pdf