What is Mental Health First Aid?

We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health, but sometimes people prioritise their physical health over their mental health. With that in mind, it’s important to understand that mental ill health can appear at any time and can affect everyone, just as physical ill health can. 

Mental health first aid is the mental health equivalent of physical first aid and it’s the help you give to someone developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis until the person in need has received the appropriate professional treatment. It’s just like calling for a first aider if you have a fall or feel unwell, they’ll help you feel better in the meantime, but you might still have to seek more help; MHFA is exactly the same.

Here are some of the things mental health first aiders do to make sure they support the mental health and wellbeing of a person suffering from ill mental health.


Spotting the Signs

As a society, we don’t tend to know how to take care of our mental health like we do our physical health. This means that people may not know how to support a friend, family member or colleague experiencing a mental health issue. In fact, only 12% of UK adults seek mental health treatment if they’re suffering. If you had a sprained wrist or ear infection, you’d go to the hospital or visit your local GP, but many people don’t treat their mental health in the same way. We want to change this at MHFA Wales through bringing more awareness through mental health first aid training.

Mental health first aid training can help people understand how best to support people experiencing the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Disordered eating
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Panic attacks
  • Issues with substance use


In preparation for these times, being equipped with mental health first aid training will allow you to support a person developing any of the above, whether it’s at home or at work. However, it’s important to distinguish that mental health first aid training isn’t designed for people to become mental health care providers. Mental health first aiders won’t be in a position to diagnose or treat mental disorders after such training, they’ll merely support an individual during a crisis or after noticing a change in a person to ensure appropriate professional support is sought.


How to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace

According to GoodShape’s UK PLC 2021 Workforce Health Report, UK workers took over 319 million days off work for illnesses at an estimated cost of £43 billion to employers. Mental health issues were the primary reason for time off work during 2021, accounting for 19% of all lost working time across the country, which is even more than the confirmed cases of COVID-19 which represented 16%.

The UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) strongly advise workplaces that there needs to be a person appointed to take charge of physical first aid in the workplace. However, statistics like the above make it clear that employers need to treat mental health in a similar way to physical health in order to improve mental health in the workplace. This would include workplaces and employers considering the following:

  • Undertaking health and safety risk assessments that consider mental health and risks, not just the physical
  • Qualified Mental Health First Aiders as part of the team
  • Maintaining healthy mental health practice in the workplace through ongoing training and easily accessible resources


This is also backed up by a recent publication by the World Health Organisation (WHO) who recommended for the first time that managers should be trained to help identify and respond to workers who require support related to mental health; as well as individual employees in order to raise awareness. This will allow managers to understand how to improve mental health in the workplace and give them the confidence to recognise, engage with and support team members with mental health problems and to adjust job stressors in working conditions.

On average, we spend one third of our lives at work, so it’s very important to make your company feel welcoming and open to discussions of wellbeing and mental health. A mental health first aider within a workplace is trained to listen and to be a point of contact for employees experiencing emotional distress or suffering in silence with mental health problems. Through training courses like the ones we offer at MHFA Wales, first aiders are taught to confidently signpost someone to appropriate support and are equipped to deal with emergencies too – such as thoughts of suicide for example.

Training is essential to equip people with tools, understanding and confidence to deal with all kinds of mental ill health and wellbeing issues. Given the current climate in the UK surrounding mental health, the likelihood of encountering issues both personally and professionally is almost guaranteed. Therefore, knowing how to improve mental health in the workplace is crucial for employee wellbeing.

In fact, the HSE confirms that there has been an increase in undertaking MHFA training in workplace settings as employers begin to see the growing importance of safeguarding the holistic health of their employees and that there is consistent evidence that MHFA training raises employees’ awareness of mental ill health, including signs and symptoms. Employees who have participated in MHFA training have a better understanding of where to find information and professional support and are more confident in helping individuals experiencing mental ill health or a crisis.


Why Train with MHFA Wales?

As the license holder of Mental Health First Aid in Wales, we develop and deliver high quality, research and evidence based mental health training for employers.

With over a decade of training experience, we have worked with thousands of companies across the UK, from small businesses to large corporations, such as Money Supermarket, Deloitte, and Principality. These companies have seen and experienced the benefits that come from investing in employee wellbeing and mental health, from increased productivity and work quality to improve employee health and happiness. In turn, by investing in employees’ wellbeing and mental health, the positive ripples of this action will reach employees’ families, friends, clients, customers, and everyone that they interact with.

We believe that a focus on wellbeing and mental health is the future of business development and can create a significate impact on corporate workplaces and their culture.

To find out more about us, the types of training we provide, or book a course through one of our licensed instructors, visit our website and invest in your employees’ wellbeing and mental health.



“I found the course very insightful and helpful for my role as a manager.” – Rhian. R


“Extremely useful course. It opened my eyes to mental health problems and has given me the confidence to help others.” – Paul Paddick


“Great course, very clear layout & very informative. The exercises were a great part as they kept you engaged as some of this info is quite hard hitting.” – Lauren Rees


“Really friendly, welcoming instructors. They explained things clearly and were respectful of everyone’s answers in the group discussions. They were encouraging. In the discussions it was useful to hear people’s experiences and apply this to what we were learning. The videos were really useful as the storytelling aspect helped it to be memorable, e.g. in the psychosis video it was helpful to have the testimonials from peoples real life experiences, and to hear how they would like to be helped. The scenarios we were presented with helped us to think about the order in which we’d use ALGEE in a real life situation. The e learning aspect seemed well paced and had a good mix of information to read and different tasks to do, such as filling in response boxes and click and drag exercises. I would recommend this course to anyone interested in mental health and those who are living with someone experiencing mental ill health.” – Jennie Coates


“I really enjoyed the course, and it has given me an understanding of how to help someone in crisis. But this has also given me an understanding of what to look out for in myself, having struggled with my own mental health I am looking forward to supporting and helping anyone who needs it.” – Owen Turner


Read more testimonials here.

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