The Bill that would make ‘mental health first aid’ (MHFA) training in the workplace a legal requirement has had its first reading, with the second reading planned for 24th November 2023.
The Bill was introduced into the House of Commons on 25th January 2023 by Dean Russell MP as a private members bill (under the ten-minute rule), he 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.”
The proposition follows data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which found that stress, depression, and anxiety accounted for half (51 per cent) of work-related illness last year. Between 2021/2022, HSE found that mental illness accounted for 914,000 new or long-standing cases of ill health.
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 is solid – to progress the principle of ‘parity of esteem’ between physical and mental health and to introduce more focus on mental health support in workplaces.
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