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FEATURE

It’s time for mental health first aid

Mental illness is now impacting the workforce more than physical injury, so the need to provide mental health training is more important than ever. Words Emma Brown What you should do when someone gets stung by a blue-ringed octopus or bitten by a snake is covered in traditional workplace first aid training. But did you realise that how to help a person who is struggling with depression, suffering from a panic attack or dealing with anxiety is not covered in these courses? While it’s mandatory for workplaces to have first aid officers trained on how to respond to bee stings and nose bleeds Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training is not compulsory. Yet, the biggest 20

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INFORM | ISSUE 30

impact on health and wellbeing in today’s workplaces is mental health with one in five people experiencing a mental illness each year. As a result Australian workplaces are feeling the impact of mental illness, losing more than six million working days a year in sick leave due to mental health issues. Mental illness has also overtaken physical injury as the leading cause of absence in the workplace and is the main reason why people aren’t able to return to work, either on long-term sickness absence, or on incapacity benefits.

Even if workers are soldiering on to work with mental health problems they may struggle to maintain productivity, leading to presenteeism – the problem of workers being on the job but not fully functioning. MHFA Instructor, Jo Richards has been a HR manager for 25 years and wishes she would have undertaken the training when she first started out in her career. “Throughout my work history I’ve been exposed to people with mental health issues. If I had done this course and had

Inform Issue 30  
Inform Issue 30