4 minute read – Business Management Series – Mental health first aid
In Australia, our top performing workplaces are not just invested in their bottom line, they are invested in the people who help build it.
When someone falls in their workplace, they provide first aid, and ensure the employee or visitor is directed or delivered to the right specialist, usually a doctor, to help them heal.
But bruises and breaks to our bodies are not the only injuries we can experience at work, or bring to work with us.
Strong employers recognise mental health is just as important as physical health, and yet, in Australia, relatively few businesses place the same importance on having a mental health first aid officer, as they do a physical first aid officer.
In fact, in our ongoing survey of frontline workers, the desire for mental health first aid officers was highlighted, as was a demand for training in this space.
So, what is the value of a mental health first aid officer?
Mental health first aid officers recognise issues early
One of the true values of your mental health first aid officer, is they are trained to identify symptoms or potential issues in co-workers or others surrounding them. They know what to look for and when.
Early detection is of course a valuable piece of the puzzle when it comes to diagnoses (when required) and can help ensure your employees get the treatment they need before their situation worsens.
Concerns are escalated more rapidly
In many medium-to-large organisations, it is easy for a busy manager to overlook a direct report who is struggling, due to their own commitments.
A mental health first aid officer can help bring concerns about team mates to the attention of the manager faster, so the manger can draw on the processes and tools within the company (such as EAP), to arrange help and support for the employee.
Processes are managed with empathy, compassion and skill
When a person becomes a manager, they do not automatically understand the best way to manage employee mental health concerns – it is something they can learn through training.
A mental health first aid officer can be of great help at this point, as both the demands of and motivation for their role, mean they will often be naturally empathic and compassionate.
Combine emotional intelligence with specialist training in this area, and your mental health first aid officer can provide a skilled approach to identifying and managing issues.
Valuable insights are provided to those suffering
While a mental health first aid officer’s job is not that of a counsellor or psychologist, and they are not trained to provide these services, they are advised on how they can help and support an employee prior to referring them to a specialist.
They can provide links, insights and tools, like coping mehcanisms, that may be all the employee needs right now to help them feel better.
Importantly, these insights and suggestions are carefully curated and have been delivered to the officer through recognised training.
Referrals are informed and insightful
Is your problem a Lifeline issue? Something that can be supported by Beyond Blue? Or do you need to see a counsellor or psychologist?
Your mental health first aid officer does!
A part of the training provided for this role – a very important part – is identifying the symptoms and then referring the employee to the right organisation or specialist to seek the support they need.
This informed and education-based approach ensures everyone gets The RIGHT help straight away, so the problem doesn’t become worse.
Mental health first aid helps your bottom line
It might seem counter-intuitive, spending money to save money, but investing in a mental health first aid officer can contribute positively to the bottom line.
Employees who are bringing mental health conditions to work, or experiencing issues at work that cause mental health issues, are likely not as productive as they could be.
Your mental health officer can help them deal with the issue (inhouse or externally), so your productivity can increase and you don’t lose valuable skills or knowledge.
Replacing an employee can cost upwards of 150% of his or her annual salary – you have to source and pay a new employee, then train them to do the job as you need it done.
Training a mental health officer – or two or three – can be a valuable part of your employee retention and workplace productivity strategies.
The real bottom line
In many of our articles, we touch on employer brand, and the importance of both being an employer of choice and communicating that fact internally and externally.
Looking after your staff physically and mentally, and ensuring they are trained to also look after each other, is a giant leap in the right direction when it comes to building an organisation that attracts and retains high-quality employees.
VisiCase provides an NDIS-ready business automation platform, built on powerful workflows. It helps you manage, streamline and optimise every component of your business, and its modules empower a positive employee and client experience.
Image by Claudio Schwarz