Picture this — a team member silently struggling with personal issues, keeping their mental health challenges hidden, and no one in the workplace is aware. Then, one day, something at work triggers a crisis.
According to Beyond Blue, almost 1 in 5 people experience poor mental health each year, with over half of all Australians facing similar challenges in their lives.
Full-time employees spend a significant portion of their lives at work. It’s not surprising that, at some point, someone in a leadership position may have to respond to a mental health incident in the workplace.
Much like a traditional first aid officer, a trained mental health first aid officer is a trusted peer who provides support for initial contact, assistance and referrals when an employee experiences mental health problems in the workplace. They act as a bridge, offering support until the individual receives professional help or the crisis is resolved.
In South Australia, broadly there are no legal requirements for all organisations to have accredited mental health first aid officers on staff.
However, it’s widely regarded as a best practice, especially in industries more susceptible to high stress levels.
Regulation 42 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations Act 2012 (SA) talks about a PCBU’s (Persons Conducting a Business or Undertakings) duty to provide workers trained in first aid or provide access to persons trained in first aid, taking into account the nature of work and the nature of hazards in the workplace.
If there are psychological risks identified by the PCBU within a workplace, any first aiders should be given additional training in mental health first aid. Therefore, it may be a requirement if the PCBU identifies such risks (some examples would be high and low job demands, low job control, poor workplace relationships, workers exposed to violent or traumatic events, and workers performing remote or isolated work).
Larger organisations are encouraged to train multiple employees in mental health first aid as part of their strategy to support their team’s well-being.
The presence of trained mental health first aid officers can significantly impact the workplace. They reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues, fostering a culture of openness where employees feel comfortable discussing their struggles. These officers are skilled at recognising early signs of distress and can provide timely support, preventing situations from worsening.
Mental health first aid officers play an important role in connecting employees with the right mental health professionals and services. This ensures that those in need receive the appropriate care and support to overcome their challenges.
Addressing employee wellbeing is more critical than ever. Trained mental health first aid officers are a tangible expression of an organisation’s commitment to supporting its employees. Their presence is not just a good practice; it’s a gesture of care, and an investment in a healthier, more compassionate workplace.
We also recognise that managing psychosocial hazards is crucial for maintaining a positive work environment, enhancing employee wellbeing, and improving overall organizational performance. It requires collaboration between employers, managers, and employees to create a supportive and healthy workplace culture. The South Australian Business Chamber can support you through training of your leadership and management team through its half day – Psychological Safety for Leaders training course.
Interested in upskilling one of your team in mental health first aid? the South Australian Business Chamber recommends St Johns SA. You can find out more about how our training courses can assist you here.