Mental Health in the workplace

In the last twelve months there has been a large increase of mental health support in the workplace and it’s really encouraging to see more employers are realising the importance of having Mental Health First Aiders.

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The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work. The HSE recommends companies with 5-50 employees should have at least one trained first aider on site. 

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 made it a legal requirement to have trained fire wardens. All staff members in a business environment have to receive at least some form of basic fire warden training. Therefore you need to have enough employees trained as fire wardens to help assist in an emergency situation. 

What about Mental Health First Aiders? There is currently no legal requirement for employers to have them on site. This is despite some eye watering statistics:

“Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental illness each year. In 2016, 15.8 million UK work days were lost due to mental illness. The largest causes of sickness absence for our county’s workforce is depression, stress, and anxiety. Mental illness costs UK businesses around £35 billion every year, this equates to £10.6 billion lost to sickness absence, £21.2 billion in reduced productivity, and £3.1 billion in substituting staff members who vacate their roles due to mental illness.” (stats taken from

Mental health is such a complex area and because the symptoms are not immediately visible, it can often go unnoticed until it’s too late. Despite all the great work being done to break the stigma there are still many people who don’t speak up because they are scared for fear of being judged and discriminated against. There is also a fear of showing vulnerability at work because no one wants to be seen as ‘weak’. I'd like to challenge this by saying that showing vulnerability allows you to make connections with others. This is incredibly important at work where we spend so much time and is a key part of the recovery process. I am not advocating that you openly talk about your mental health issues to everyone you come across (I would never get anything done if I did!) However it is important that we empower and support people so they know there is someone at work besides the HR department who they can speak to, as some people may be scared to raise issues with their line managers. This is where the Mental Health First Aiders play a key part. 

I am grateful to work at Rufus as we have a robust wellbeing programme in place, along with a HR team that really emphasise the ‘human’ side of their role by ensuring we have an open, supportive environment. I take my role as a MHFAider very seriously because I know just how difficult it can be when you are struggling with mental health issues.

I am not afraid or ashamed to admit that I have anxiety and I have battled depression, trauma and PTSD over many years. For those of you who at this stage are reading this and silently screaming; “Noooooo! You have just committed career suicide by admitting this”, that’s not my interpretation at all. Isn’t that part of the problem? Why shouldn’t we talk about mental health? I am not ashamed of my experiences, they have enabled me to find levels of resilience and insights I never even knew I had. I know what it’s like to hit rock bottom and work my way back up. It’s changed me in many ways, for the better. I can always see the positives to every situation and I am not afraid to fight back at the many obstacles life may throw at me.

I am a survivor and because of that I wear my ‘badges’ with pride. 

Having gone through a myriad of mental health issues it has enabled me to make connections with many people from all walks of life, not just at work. Instead of being defined and restricted by my experiences I openly tap into them to show others that we can overcome them, and we can empower others by sharing our stories and the tools and techniques we use to manage any issues. I work with people to assess their situation and together we discuss available support, formulate a wellbeing plan or advise them to make an appointment with their doctor.  If you would like to find out more information there is currently a campaign ‘Where’s your head at?” which is calling for first aid regulations to be amended to also include mental health support, not just physical health. I hope this soon becomes a mandatory requirement in every workplace. You can find more details at:

If you don’t have a MHFA at work, why not approach your HR department and request one? Or maybe you can put yourself forward for the role? 

For more on this subject, take a look at our blog on Health and Happiness in the workplace written by our HR Advisor Emily-Faye...

Rufus Leonard

Ever since our founders, Neil and Darrel, started Rufus Leonard 29 years ago, we have been helping businesses create extraordinary experiences for their colleagues and their customers across all touchpoints. We do this with an engineering mindset, which means we’re both visionary thinkers and detailed doers. We believe this holistic approach is critical for success in an increasingly complex world. Our integrated offer enables us to design, build and fine-tune the engines of Extraordinary Brand Experience – Organisational Engagement, Brand Optimisation, Service Design & Build and Technology. Supporting brands like Lloyds Banking Group, British Gas, Reckitt Benckiser, Royal Mail, Stagecoach, BBC and Aggreko.

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