Mental Health First Aiders, Buddy Systems & Financial Wellbeing Discussed in Includability Forum

Image Credit: Includability

May 11th 2021


Mental health first Aiders within a company, better working practices to promote positive mental health, regular movement during work hours and employee financial wellbeing were among the topics discussed at Includability’s live Mental Health in the Workplace webinar in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week.


The forum took place on 10 May and featured prepared statements plus a Q&A. The webinar featured a panel hosted by Includability Co-Founder, Paul Smith, and co-hosted by Michael Lloyd from the Mental Health Charter.


Catherine Allen, HR Director at Ella’s Kitchen, announced that inhouse staff were now being trained in mental health (MH) first aid, in addition to standard first aid required for workplaces by UK employment law.


Catherine said their MH first aiders are given learning materials and phone numbers of helpful organisations but said they were “there to signpost, not to solve” MH problems. Like physical first aid, they would have enough knowledge to listen and facilitate specialist MH help but would be separate from the company hierarchy.  


Michael Lloyd added, “Every single person should be mental health trained in a business. Physical first aid is required by law, but more people may need a mental health first-aider than a physical one.”


The panel also featured Mandy Plues, Founder of Yorkshire Mental Health First Aid and Roxanne McCarthy a Mental Health & Wellbeing Advocate.


Plues recommended organisations use a buddy system, someone who can hold a list of signposts such as, GPs, advisors, or organisation contacts. The idea is similar to a mental health first aider, but a buddy would be a more informal arrangement and keep a greater buffer between employees and management.


She also told the panel that greater communication was required to alert employees to benefit systems that may already be in place within an organisation and gave examples of employees within organisations using GP mental health services when there were services available to them via their employer and may have a shorter waiting list compared with a GP.


“The problem was that no one told them about it. If you are going to have employee assistance programmes in place, then you need to be shouting about it… the difference between the waiting time was 2-3 months,” Plues said.


The panel also discussed employee financial wellbeing and its relation to mental health. The main issue with employee wellbeing seems to centre around the state of their finances and the question was raised of how far should a company enquire into an employee’s financial state?  


On movement and exercise relating to mental health, Roxanne McCarthy told the panel she set up walking groups for her office twice a week as part of her working routine. She said her manager actively encourages this and feels her overall health is better for it. She openly talked about her own mental health journey and said talking and moving has helped her overcome some of her difficulties.    


The mental health support group, Run Talk Run was recommended for scheduling regular exercise as part of the working week.