What is Mental First Aid?

Mental first aid at work, as the name suggests, is aimed at preventing or reducing the incidence of mental health issues in the workplace, by giving first aid when the early signs of a mental health illness are observed, or if someone undergoes a mental health crisis.

Despite stress being responsible for around 45% of workplace absence, up to 75% of people with diagnosable mental health issues do not receive any medical help. The aim of Mental Health First Aid is to ensure those people receive the help they need as soon as possible after the onset of the illness.

How can you help?

1) The first thing we can do to help, is to undertake training to become a mental health first aider. This training will give you the skills to spot when someone is showing the early warning signs of a mental health crisis.  There is information available on training here.

2) When confronted by a mental health crisis situation it is vital for you to stay calm! It’s counterproductive if you get uptight and frustrated, even if the situation is one which causes you anxiety.

3) Listen to the person experiencing a mental health crisis. It is vital that you don’t argue with the person or talk over them or even talk down to them – let them speak, even if what they are saying doesn’t make sense.

4) When someone is facing a mental health crisis that requires mental health first aid, even the simplest of tasks can seem overwhelming to them, so, find out if there is a task that they are focussing on, what it is, and how you can help them. Reassure them that the task will get done. This could help reduce their anxiety.

5) Find out from the person if there is any particular support that they would like or need. They may already have a strategy in place that provides mental health first aid, like taking a walk in the fresh air or sitting down in a quiet place. Help them execute that strategy.

6) Finally, make sure they get professional help if it is necessary. If you are unsure what professional help they need, contact the NHS national helpline for advice.


Every year, one in four people in the workplace is likely to experience a mental health problem, making mental health issues the major single cause of lost days of work. The requirement for mental health first aid at work should be about equal to that of physical first aid. This means that organisations should be training up as many mental health first aiders as there are traditional first aiders in the company.

Being aware of the signs of a pending mental health episode and knowing what to do in the situation could not only save someone from being seriously ill, but it could literally save their life. Find out more from Mental Health First Aid UK or contact us to find out about our corporate training options.

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