What is a mental health problem?

Mental ill health covers a wide range of issues which can be grouped  into 3 categories: stress and anxiety; depression and suicide; and psychosis (schizophrenia and bipolar disorder). Substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) overlap all three groupings. When we look at every day life mental ill health affects the person at home, at work, socially, in relaxation and at school or college. There is no getting away from it. The most common mental ill health in Britain is mixed anxiety and depression. 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem during some point of their life.

Why Mental Health Problems affect us all

Early intervention can help slow down or stop a mental health problem and leads to faster recovery. However, most of us know little about mental health (positive or negative). We often don’t spot the signs that someone else, or our self, is struggling until very late. An MHFA course will teach you to recognise the early signs of a mental ill health, and give you the confidence and knowledge to help.

The financial cost of mental health problems is huge:

  • In total, mental ill health costs the UK economy £70 billion per year (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2014)
  • Mental ill health is the third biggest cause of absenteeism in the workplace (Office for National Statistics, 2014)
  • 15.2 million days of work days were lost in 2013 due to stress, anxiety or depression (ONS,2014)
  • Meanwhile, ‘presenteeism’ accounts for 1.5 as much working time lost on top of absence – also more costly as more common in higher-paid staff (The Centre for Mental Health, 2010).

(some information extracted from MHFA England’s flyer Mental Health First Aid Course Standard)

The HR people tell me that mental ill health resulting in one middle manager being signed off can cost their organisation in excess of £30 000. When we consider the following, that figure is not surprising:

  • How long will they be away for? 2 months? 6 months?
  • If they come back how will they cope with their job again? How high will their self esteem and confidence be?
  • Whilst they are away what happens to their responsibilities? Are they – shared out amongst colleagues at the same level or up the management hierarchy? Whose workload and stress level is added to in this case?
  • If a new person is brought in how long does it take them to get up to speed and gain the knowledge needed to be affective? I am told 6 months to a year on average.
  • What about the lost business in the interim? The lost knowledge and skills?

My goal in mental health first aid is to help people recognise mental ill health sooner, get support and treatment sooner and if possible keep them working (with concessions if appropriate) so that the issue that contributed to the problem becomes part of the solution and creates a win-win for the affected person and their employer.

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