Make it compulsory to have a mental health first aider at work #wheresyourheadat
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When I was 10 I started having panic attacks. Not knowing what was happening, I went to the doctor and was wrongly diagnosed with asthma. They had overlooked that my symptoms could be caused by something mental rather than something physical. I didn’t truly get the help I needed until I was in my thirties – and in the meantime, I developed toxic coping strategies including an eating disorder which lasted 7 years. I think a big part of the problem was that the people around me - doctors, teachers, family and employers - didn't know how to respond or care for me as they would have done if my illness had been physical.
I don’t want other people to suffer in silence as long as I did, so ever since I have been fighting to change our relationship with mental health - I’m a campaigner for better mental health support - and now I’ve joined forces in partnership with some of your favorite brands, from Heat magazine, Grazia and Empire, to Kiss FM, Magic Radio and Absolute Radio, to start this petition calling for all businesses and colleges to introduce mental health first aiders.
The workplace is where we spend most of our adult lives but unfortunately it’s also a place that, in my experience, mental well-being is the most neglected. We feel the need to soldier on when we are struggling with mental illness in a way we never would if we had the flu or broken a leg.
And this is reflected in our laws. Under the Health and Safety at work act, most workplaces have to train someone in medical first aid - it means if we come to work and end up getting hurt or sick, there’s someone that knows what to do. Unfortunately, despite statistics showing 1 in 4 of us struggle with mental health every year, most workplaces don’t have anyone on hand that knows how to help.
Evidence shows the earlier a mental health issue - like stress, anxiety or depression - is detected the easier it is to manage and treat. By making it easier for people to talk about their mental health at work & and by training colleagues on site who know where to point people to get the help, we could dramatically improve the mental well-being of the country.
Mental Health First Aid courses are available, and whilst most organisations don’t have them, those that do (like Unilever and Ford) have found them to be transformative.
Please join me in calling on Sarah Newton, the Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work to commit to updating the Health and Safety At Work Act to ensure that businesses have the same obligation to provide mental health first aiders as they do medical first aiders.
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