Mental Health First Aid for employers

BLOG ARTICLE | By The Simplyhealth Team

Insights > Mental wellbeing > Mental health first aid: an important tool for employers


BLOG ARTICLE | By The Simplyhealth Team | 8th October 2020

The state of mental health in the UK today is fragile. We know that, in normal times, as many as 1 in 4 people in England will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year1. The coronavirus pandemic adds another layer to this. Mental health charity, Mind is urging the Government to, “plan for recovery from [a] coronavirus mental health crisis.”2

A recent survey by Mind revealed that 65% of adults over 25 with an existing mental health problem reported worse mental health, during lockdown. And more than one in five adults with no previous experience of poor mental health, now report poor or very poor mental health2.

What this means for employers

This poses a critical challenge for employers. If mental health wasn’t on your agenda before, it needs to be now. Our workplace wellbeing research with the CIPD, shows that four-fifths of organisations design their health and wellbeing activity to promote mental health to a large or moderate extent3.

There is a range of approaches employers can take to support employee mental health. Access to counselling services, Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP), and increasing awareness of mental health issues across the workforce are all becoming more common.

But this World Mental Health Day (10 October), we’re focusing on a really practical way to help. And that’s Mental Health First Aid.

What is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is training that teaches people how to understand and identify mental health issues. It teaches how to spot signs of mental ill health, how to listen and respond, and how to signpost people to further sources of help and support like a GP, EAP or counselling service.

MHFA is becoming more common as a way for organisations to manage employee mental health at work. Over the last three years, we’ve seen a steady increase in the number of employers who provide MHFA training – rising from just 19 percent in 2018, to 47 percent in 20203. An encouraging trend!

Why provide MHFA training?

We know that mental health support can often fall on the shoulders of line managers. They are usually the first port of call for employees who may be struggling, yet many do not receive the training they need to deal with these types of issues.

In fact, only 60% of organisations say line managers are trained to manage stress3, leaving a significant proportion who might not have the skills to tackle this cause of poor mental health. MHFA training can be opened up to all employees, helping to lighten the load for line managers, and providing a robust foundation for all aspects of mental health support.

Having Mental Health First Aiders at all levels of the organisation also means that your messages about mental health can be shared peer-to-peer, rather than only from the top down. This can really help to raise awareness and break down the stigma that is sometimes associated with mental ill-health.

MHFA in action

At Simplyhealth, supporting our colleagues with their health and wellbeing aligns to the very heart of our Purpose; building on the belief that prevention is better than cure, and helping our customers and colleagues to stay healthy now and in the future.

We have many support tools for our colleagues, but having friendly, familiar faces to turn to at work, can provide an encouraging first step in reaching out for support when our colleagues need it. That’s why we have fifty volunteers who are trained Mental Health First Aiders. Here’s what they have to say about their important roles:

“I’ve always been really keen to help others and being an MHFA is a great opportunity to understand more around the challenges we all face, no matter the job title or status, and how to overcome them.


It’s been great to see Simplyhealth take the topic of mental health seriously. From webinars to virtual coffee mornings, I think we’re already doing a great job. We just need to continue building upon this with a culture and understanding that it’s ok to talk.”


Andy O’Neill, Talent Acquisition Specialist

“Having experienced my own challenges in the past, I was surprised how many people reached out to me when I returned to work to offer their support. These were people who I would never have suspected had suffered with their mental health, which goes to show that such feelings are often hidden and much less likely to be talked about – especially amongst men. 


Becoming a Mental Health First Aider for me is about trying to pass on to others the support I received when I needed help; I’m not afraid to speak up, to talk about the difficulties I had and to encourage others to do the same. I hope that any guys that hear me speaking about my difficulties would take strength from that to open up if they have challenges themselves.”


Jason Townsend, Head of Internal Audit

Want to know more?

We’ve created a helpful guide for your employees. It covers how we have introduced MHFAs here at Simplyhealth, support and resources for your employees, plus tips on how to raise your profile as a Mental Health First Aider. Download it here.

And for more ideas on supporting mental health, take a look at our seven free resources for mental wellbeing at work.