Why we have a Mental Health First Aider, and you should too

10 June 2022 | 4 min read | Careers
Emma Oliver

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At any given time, one in six working-age adults will experience symptoms of mental ill-health. Apply that statistic to your own organisation, and you might be taken aback.  

Take Clearly, for example – even as a small team of just eleven people, this would suggest that one or two of my colleagues are likely to be struggling with their mental health right now. However, I don’t think that’s quite true…

Last year, the PRCA and CIPR revealed that 90 per cent of PR professionals were struggling with their mental wellbeing. For comparison, the UK average sits at 65 per cent. Dive deeper, and six in ten say their PR career has worsened their existing mental health struggles. 

It’s evident that the PR industry has a serious hurdle to overcome – as do many other industries.

Making progress is not so much about raising awareness, but instead taking action so that we are equipped to spot the signs of mental ill-health, facilitate supportive conversations, assess potential risk factors, and, where appropriate, signpost others to sources of professional support. As Clearly’s Mental Health First Aider, that’s exactly what I’m here to do. 

So, what actually is a Mental Health First Aider? 

In short, the role of a Mental Health First Aider is to be a point of contact for employees who are experiencing mental ill-health or emotional distress.

We’re certainly not therapists or psychiatrists, but we have been trained in how to provide initial support during a mental health crisis, as well as how to offer non-judgemental listening and guidance. 

The aims of Mental Health First Aid are to: 


  • Preserve life
  • Prevent issues worsening
  • Promote recovery
  • Provide comfort

Sound familiar? The aims are almost identical to those of physical first aid – but why do they carry so much more stigma? Such stigma is responsible for the seven in ten people with diagnosable mental illnesses who receive no treatment at all, and the 51 per cent of employees who put on a brave face at work. 

Why does your organisation need a Mental Health First Aider?

I suspect – actually, no, I sincerely hope – that I don’t need to make the moral case for supporting the wellbeing of your workforce.

The statistics speak for themselves, but paired with the huge backlog of people still waiting to receive appropriate professional help, even those who have already sought support may still be without it. During this time, Mental Health First Aiders can intervene and provide useful resources to bridge the gap, as well as help prevent the issue from worsening. 

On the flip side, we have the impact on employers.

Each year, mental ill-health is responsible for 72 million working days lost, and costs the UK economy over £117.9 billion. Almost three quarters of this cost is due to the lost productivity of people living with mental health conditions, as well as the costs incurred by unpaid carers.

Equally, mental illnesses are more common, long-lasting, and impactful than other health conditions, making mental illness the second-largest source of burden of disease in England. 

Mental ill-health is something that cannot be ignored. As an employer, you have a duty to support the health and wellbeing of your workforce, and neither physical nor mental illness should be considered more important than the other.

87 per cent of companies who have assigned Mental Health First Aiders report more conversations about mental health happening in the workplace, and 60 per cent of employees felt more comfortable with disclosing their own mental health issues. 

In England, there are over half a million Mental Health First Aiders – and over three million worldwide. All of us share the same goal: to achieve a society where mental health is accepted as a normal part of life, and where everyone has the skills to look after their own and others’ wellbeing. 

MHFA England offer a plethora of different courses, and there really is something to suit everyone. If you’d like to learn more, simply click here.