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Is mental health first aid on your radar? If not, it should be.

March 12, 2019

Does your workplace have a Mental Health First Aid officer? As a leader or HR professional, are you actively advocating for the benefits of a holistic approach to ensuring the wellbeing of your team?



Rachael Nelson (pictured left), Director at Forsite Recruitment and Forsite Partners, has completed the accredited Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course and is on a mission to educate others about the importance of being aware of mental health inside and outside of the workplace to help staff who are struggling with mental illness.


And while Rachael insists there is a moral imperative for employers to do what they can to help their employees enjoy good mental health, she adds the business case is also very compelling with employee wellness and mental health programs often producing strong returns on this investment. According to HeadsUp, untreated mental health conditions among staff are costing Australian workplaces around US$7.3 billion (A$10.9) billion annually - US$3.37 billion of that is absenteeism; US$4.38 billion in presentism (staff members who are unproductive because of untreated mental illness) and US$104.82 million in compensation claims.


Australian non-profit organisation, the Black Dog Institute advises that one in five Australians aged between 16-85 will experience a mental illness in any one year and the World Health Organisation predicts depression will be the number one health concern in the world by 2030.


Rachael said that given the prevalence and cost to business of untreated mental illness among the workforce, there is a strong business case for a MHFA officer to be required in every business, trained in helping those who are struggling with mental health issues.

Nataly Bovopoulos, the CEO of MHFA said the program was developed in 2000 by Australian academic Anthony Jorm and his wife, nurse Betty Kitchener who battled depression and faced workplace discrimination as a result.


Since then, more than 2.6 million people in 25 countries worldwide have trained through MHFA. The standard Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course works on assisting Australians across all demographics including young people, older people and indigenous Australians.

“In the workplace there are more barriers for people reaching out for help with a belief it may affect career progression,” Nataly said. “But the workplace is a good environment for people to ask and seek help because we often spend more time with colleagues than family.”


She explained the course helped train participants in identifying emerging metal health issues among staff and steps to help support them through that process.


“You may notice that someone is not quite themselves at work and seem to be struggling,” she said. “Not everyone is comfortable doing that because they feel it is not their place to interfere or they worry they won’t know how to respond. But reaching out can make a huge difference to the individual who is suffering.


“We are working to dispel some of the myths about mental illness, the stigma associated with it and what happens when someone asks for help.”