St John Ambulance has projected that 10,000 managers and their staff will take the training in 2019, up from 5,000 this year. To keep pace with the rate of growth since it began the training in October 2017, it has made provision for 800 people to be trained in January 2019 compared to 300 in January 2018.
But despite the sharp increase in demand for its workplace training, the charity urged more employers to appreciate the importance of supporting good mental health for workers.
A recent survey of 900 St John Ambulance customers revealed a tenth (10%) of companies did not recognise stress as a condition. Of those that did, a quarter (26%) were doing nothing about it, and only a fifth (19%) were known to have any kind of mental health policy in place.
In addition, the research found 25% of employees had left a job because of mental health problems and 43% had considered leaving. Conditions including depression and stress had caused 23% to miss work for a day or longer, and 38% had been prompted to leave work early.
Six out of 10 (60%) of the respondents, mainly working in HR and administration, asserted their employer should do more to address mental health issues.
Individual responses from the employees who took part in the research included “the company I work for is pretty archaic”, “I believe my manager would mock me”, and “they recognise it as a valid condition but see it as an inconvenience”.
Debbie Adwent, an operations manager for St John Ambulance, said that perceptions of mental health are generally improving: “Business leaders are becoming more progressive in their attitudes to a subject often seen as taboo. They recognise it makes economic sense to look after people’s mental as well as physical wellbeing and that problems can arise in any sector; from finance to education."
However, she added that there is still work to be done. “There is still much work to do to raise awareness of the impact of poor mental health on people’s ability to perform and what steps can be taken to make a big difference," she said.
“Mental health first aid teaches people how to watch over their own mental health as well as that of others. It’s only the first part of a solution but it’s an excellent start.”
In December the organisation will host its first national conference on the subject, aimed at helping business leaders and HR professionals develop best practice.