Mental health first aid in the workplace has been debated in Parliament and a motion backed by a cross-party group of MPs, following a Yorkshire lawyer’s high-profile campaign.
Jodie Hill of Thrive Law launched a petition calling for mandatory mental health first aiders in the workplace last year. It attracted almost 3,000 signatures and significant media coverage from Sky News and various local outlets in Yorkshire.
In a debate on 17 January, MPs from across the five main political parties spoke in support of the issue as part of a backbench business committee debate, with all recognising the importance of addressing the need for improved first aid support in the workplace.
They followed this up with a motion calling for legislation to put mental and physical first aid on an equal footing through first aid regulations, although the government did not speak in support of the motion, meaning there is still work to do before any legislative changes are made.
Hill said following the debate and motion: “I am genuinely delighted at the positive engagement and understanding shown by MPs leading up to and during the recent debate in the House of Commons on the subject of mental health in the workplace.”
“The indication is that Parliament has acknowledged the need for this vital issue to be examined and discussed in further detail over the coming months. This is a strong vindication of the campaign I have been heading up for the last two years to train and provide compulsory mental health first aiders in the workplace.”
She added: “While there is still much work to do, I am heartened at the solid progress that has already been made. This forms a firm foundation for us to move our campaign forward to a positive conclusion.”
Simon Blake, chief executive of Mental Health First Aid England, commented: “We need the law to change to put mental and physical first aid on an equal footing in the workplace. This proposed change is backed by some of the UK’s biggest businesses, the general public and MPs from across the political spectrum. [On 17 January] there was a further demonstration of support for this legislative change when MPs debated the issue in parliament.”
“Although the motion was opposed by Jackie Doyle-Price, the minister for mental health, inequalities and suicide prevention, the speaker concluded that the ayes had it. There was also a commitment by the Minister to continue the debate on the issue of mental health in the workplace.”
“The government has made some clear commitments to achieving parity of esteem for mental health, a vision that we and many other mental health organisations share. Updating the current first aid regulations to include mental health would move us one step closer to achieving this equality and we believe that it really is a case of when, not if, this change in law will happen.”