Mental ill health costs the Australian workplaces billions of dollars annually, due to one in five Australians experiencing poor mental health annually. A mental health first aid (MHFA) Officer role is now becoming common in workplaces to provide early support to employees.
The role of a MHFA Officer.
Whilst first aid and health and safety representatives are familiar in workplaces to sit alongside them is the role of a MHFA Officer. MHFA Officers are formally appointed and trained to provide initial support to employees outside of Human Resources, Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) and EAP programs.
MHFA Officers are appointed and trained and have selection criteria for the role and are offered continued support and training.
The role of a MHFA Officer is to help employees with early prevention should they become unwell and display poor mental health behaviours through to an employee starting treatment for their condition.
Is a MHFA role legally required?
At present there is no legal requirement to have a MHFA Officer in either the Fair Work Act 2009 or the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
A workplace engagement manager at Mental Health First Aid Australia, Kathy Bond said “A Mental Health First Aid training program that is systematically implemented in a workplace can assist employers in meeting their obligations to health and safety legislation by helping them mitigate any psychological risk in the workplace that can’t be eliminated.”
Assessing whether a MHFA officer is needed?
At present there is no code of practice for a MHFA Officer yet.
One of the steps in the Code of Practice is to assess the nature of work being carried out and the hazards. “Safe Work Australia advise employers should intervene if they identify psychological risk or notice a worker becoming stressed, the earlier this can be identified the sooner the steps can be put in place to prevent a work-related mental health condition developing or an existing condition worsening.”
The larger the organisation higher the chance of more employees developing a poor mental health at some point and requiring support.
Mental Health First Aid Officers will be trained to recognise warning signs and how to offer effective first aid support so mental health problems don’t get worse.
Benefits of a MHFA Officer in the workplace.
Show commitment by the company to support their employees in mental health. In return, the company may expect to see an increase in productivity, employee’s engagement, results and a reduction in absenteeism and presenteeism costs as well as workers compensation claims.
The MHFA office role offers individuals:
- The ability to demonstrate mental health first aid knowledge and skills;
- The opportunity to be appointed as a MHFA officer in the workplace; and
- Ongoing refresher courses every three years.
To become an accredited MHFA Officer.
On successfully completing a MHFA e-learning course a participant is eligible to attend a half-day face-to-face course. Once both courses are completed the participant must pass a short assessment of multiple choice and true/false questions to become Accredited MHFAider. The participant will receive a digital Accreditation Certificate valid for 3 years, this will be renewed by undertaking a refresher course.
If you need help with a Mental Health policy contact HRLE on 0498 008 578.