Mental health 1st aid and suicide prevention awareness month

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness month which aims to promote awareness around the issues of suicide prevention, how you can help others, and how to talk about suicide without increasing the risk of harm. According to the NAMI website (National Alliance of Mental Illness), suicidal thoughts can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people and is often the result of mental health conditions that effect people when they are most vulnerable. Did you know that there is a higher rate of death by suicide in Scotland than by road traffic accidents? Awareness of this issue is important because everyone will know someone, whether him/herself, a family member, or friend who has experienced mental health issues, with depression being the most common.

What can the workplace do to help?

Earlier this year, two of our Zest team members, Lisa Cathro & Johnathan Reeves, completed a Mental Health First Aid training course. The course taught them to recognize what signs to look out for, to understand what help is out there, and they learnt how to reduce the stigma and fear of just asking the question “have you had thoughts about harming yourself?” It is better to ask the questions and risk looking silly, than to regret not asking. This training has already proven to be very valuable, so why is mental health first aid not a priority in all businesses? Lack of awareness is a major contributor, but consider this, Lisa and Johny have already used their mental health first aid training multiple times in the last 6 months, but how often have they used their first aid for accidents training? Zero. First aid in the work place is extremely important, but we are hoping to spread awareness of the importance of expanding your training to include mental health first aid. Businesses are used to risk assessing and training for every eventuality relating to Health & Safety to reduce accidents, but how many businesses train or risk assess for the mental wellbeing of their colleagues/team members?

The most common factor in suicide is depression which often leads to isolation and anxiety. With little support in the workplace due to lack of knowledge, people suffering from this condition often end up losing their jobs, being signed off sick, or resigning as they feel unable to cope, which in turn compounds their isolation and lowers confidence in themselves and their abilities. From a business point of view, you may lose a valuable team member, experience low morale amongst colleagues, have reduced output, higher staffing costs to cover absence and lose more time and money in recruiting and retraining.

By raising awareness of mental health first aid, we hope to encourage employers to invest in training their teams. The training has helped the Zest staff to support each other through good times and bad. We are not perfect, but we are a team that is used to being open and inclusive to people from all walks of life, abilities and social situations, whether colleagues or customers. We know the value of mental health first aid and we are working towards having our whole team attend the two day mental health first aid course. Check out the links below for more information.