· News

St John Ambulance calls on employers to step up mental health support for workers

St John Ambulance is calling on employers to respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers’ mental health as it launches courses in how to talk about it with employees.

After a survey in February this year of 900 St John Ambulance first aid training customers, the health service launched a series of course to support mental health.

The survey found eight out of 10 workers felt their mental health was worse or more variable because of the pandemic, while nearly nine in 10 expressed concerns about a colleague’s mental health.

Almost half surveyed said employers should do more to support their wellbeing in relation to the pandemic and a quarter of key workers said their employer provided no mental health support at all.

The survey also found one in four people left a job due to mental health issues prompted by COVID-19, up from one in five the previous year.

The new half-day courses, offered online or face-to-face, are training line managers and mental health first aiders how to spot signs that a member of staff may be struggling, how to start the conversation and how to support them.

The training highlights the many aspects of the COVID-19 health crisis which might lead to people suffering from anxiety, stress or depression.

This includes bereavement, physical illness, financial hardship and isolation.

The courses also cover the unequal impact of the pandemic on different sections of the population, as well as the negative coping strategies people may have developed.

St John’s head of education and training products, Andrew New said mental wellbeing support is more important now than ever before. 

He told HR magazine: “We know the pandemic has taken its toll mentally on many people and as things move towards normality, it’s important this is not brushed under the carpet.

“Some employers are switched onto the benefits of proactively supporting the mental wellbeing of their people, others less so.”

However, as people return to the office after the pandemic, or if they continue to work from home, New said employers need to make sure they create an environment where people feel understood and supported if they’re struggling.

He said: “Having these types of supportive conversations is not easy and we sensed there was a real urgency for managers and existing mental health first aiders to be trained in this area.

“Building on our experience as the nation’s leading first aid trainer, we’ve designed really practical courses that will give delegates the confidence and competence to support mental health in their workplace.”

He added that similar training was being delivered to St John’s own employees and volunteers.

Employees at the health service are taking part in a workplace mental health first aid refresher course.

The course is three and a half hours long and is designed to refresh skills previously learnt on any mental health first aid course, with extra focus on the impact COVID-19 has had on people’s mental wellbeing.

It also provides a refresh on the role of employers in supporting wellbeing in the workplace.

Mental health during the pandemic:

‘Pleaseanteeism’ risks damaging employee mental health

Mental health lessons from the pandemic must become part of workplace culture

Employees believe mental health conditions impede their careers