A new Bill that would make ‘mental health first aid’ (MHFA) training in the workplace a legal requirement has moved onto its second reading in Parliament.
The Bill was introduced into the House of Commons on 23 March by Dean Russell MP, who wants a new law to ensure that every workplace has a Mental Health First Aider. Russell told the House that it is already a legal obligation to provide training for First Aid for injuries or illness, under the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981. He said it should be the case that mental health is given the same parity of esteem.
“Just imagine what impact that would have. And the people we could help, before they require more urgent support. It would mean that First aiders in every workplace would not just be able to save lives through CPR, but perhaps change lives by asking people how they are.”
He continued that the plans would not ask too much of businesses. “Just as physical first aiders are not expected to be trained as doctors or paramedics, mental health first aiders are not expected to be counsellors or full-time psychotherapists. The training simply provides the skills for the first aider to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue.”
The Bill has not been universally praised, although many have said the motivation to introduce more focus on mental health support in workplaces is sound. Stephen Bevan writing for the Institute for Employment Studies, said there is a “worryingly weak evidence base” for the effectiveness of MHFA and that it’s not proven to be better than other training providers.
“We concluded this after conducting a review of the evidence on line manager training on mental health in a study we conducted for the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB). This found that MHFA performs no better than many of the alternative approaches and our conclusions are confirmed by several others who have also scrutinised the results achieved by MHFA.”
“The motivation is solid - to progress the principle of ‘parity of esteem’ between physical and mental health. Sadly, mandating MHFA is unlikely to achieve this.”
The first reading was heard on 23 March and the date for the second reading is to be announced.
Find out about the Bill's progress here
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