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NHS England boosts West Midlands drive to train mental health first aiders

NHS England is marking World Mental Health Day tomorrow by pledging its support for a West Midlands drive for large employers to train up to five per cent of their staff as mental health first aiders over the next five years.

With 11 per cent of its staff trained as mental health first aiders, NHS England’s West Midlands team has already doubled the target set by West Midlands Combined Authority as part of a wide-ranging plan to improve mental health in the region.

Mental health first aiders are volunteers who have been specially trained to help a colleague, a relative or anyone else they see who may be experiencing a mental health problem.

World Mental Health Day is taking place on Tuesday 10 October and this year’s theme, set by the World Federation for Mental Health, is mental health in the workplace.

Jo-Anne Alner, executive lead director for mental health at NHS England (West Midlands), said: “Anyone can be affected by mental health issues, such as stress, depression and anxiety, and at any point in their lives. Mental health problems represent the largest single cause of disability in the UK.

“At NHS England, we proactively support all our staff to help colleagues and themselves with their mental health and emotional wellbeing. We do this by raising awareness of, and providing training opportunities for, the Mental Health First Aiders initiative, and offer a range of other support for colleagues, including an employee assistance programme.

“We’re proud to support West Midlands Combined Authority’s drive to train more mental health first aiders, and I’d encourage other large employers in our region to do the same.”

Superintendent Sean Russell, of West Midlands Police, is director of implementation leading West Midlands Combined Authority’s work on mental health.

He said: “In our region alone, about £1.72 billion is lost each year due to mental health problems affecting working people.

“But the human cost is even greater. The stigma that still surrounds mental health means that many people turn up to work when they feel unwell. They worry about being demoted, missing out on promotions, being seen as less capable or judged negatively, or even losing their jobs.

“This is why wellbeing in the workplace is a top priority for us. Good mental health is just as important as good physical health and we need to build our resilience in the same way – through exercising regularly, having a balanced diet and sleeping well.”

The MERIT Vanguard programme, a partnership of four NHS mental health trusts in the West Midlands, is helping to spread the Mental Health First Aid message by recruiting trainers in each trust. The programme has also produced local training resources, which reflect the diversity of the West Midlands and include distinctive local voices.

To find out more about becoming a mental health first aider, visit the Mental Health First Aid website

World Mental Health Day provides an opportunity for people who work in mental health to talk about their work and what more needs to be done to make good mental health care a reality for people worldwide. For more information, visit the Mental Health Foundation website