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But, what next?

I’m 30 this year, and until recently, I’d never seen a single episode of "The Office."

There's a sketch early on in the first season where head office has received a complaint about racism, and HR is called in to do some “training.” What follows is so simultaneously comedic and cringe-inducing that I struggled to watch it.

And I hate to say it, but it really gave me the same sort of feeling that the current mental health in the workplace trainers are giving.

I’m worried we’ll look back in 20 years and be mortified that “we did what we thought was best at the time.”

I have written about this before, but I’ll reiterate: first aid is NOT the same as PPE.

Preventive healthcare is not the same as treating an injury once it’s happened.

Mental health first aiders are the next big cash cow for training providers.

And I do think it’s a huge step in the right direction. I’m a strong advocate for being able to spot the early signs of mental ill-health.

But there's just one big old elephant in the room. What's next? After the first aid is given…

You see, first aiders that deal with physical injuries have a process: someone suffers an injury, they identify, provide first aid in the moment, prevent it from getting worse if possible.

If the recipient has to go to the hospital, there’s a treatment pathway. It could be painkillers, X-rays, stitches, surgery, you get the idea. There’s a plethora of treatments available, whether it’s a minor or major ailment.

And then we have mental health first aid courses.

I googled what they’re expected to do…

“They are trained to spot the early signs of mental ill-health in others. They are taught to confidently signpost someone to appropriate support.”

And there it is… signpost to appropriate support. I’d love to know where it is these signposts are supposed to lead to.

I’m 6 years in this sector now, and spoiler alert: your employees will be getting signposted to the middle of nowhere unless you also have a provider that offers said support. Because there is a huge gap in the options for help available for early-stage mental illness.

In my experience, if someone is ill enough that a mental health first aider has spotted it, then they’re beyond needing a wellness leaflet and some journaling. But if they’re still able to function at work, they probably won’t lack enough mental capacity to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

And there we have the middle ground, the slippery slope that so many of us are left to slide down. Struggling enough to need help getting better, not sick enough to be prioritized for hands-on support.

Having mental health first aiders is a great first step if you really care about the wellbeing of your workforce. But the thing that separates the best from the rest is the companies who are mindful of what’s next.

The respite programs provided by BTG are a perfect tool to have in the first aid kit. We’ll provide professional counseling with no waitlist and physical therapy with a focus on the development of long-term wellbeing.

Support for employees is available from as little as £62.50 a month and gives employers the peace of mind to know that if someone is struggling, the signposts can lead directly to professionals that care.

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