Assessing The Effectiveness of Mental Health First Aid

I’m often asked to talk about the effectiveness of MHFAiders as part of a corporate mental health strategy. Many questions revolve around data and feedback which the corporate world can use to demonstrate tangible ROI.

Why data is important

If you’ve invested in mental health programmes and policies, including mental health first aid training for employees, how are you going to know if the time and cost were at all effective?

Most companies rely on an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to provide employee support. These EAPs do usually supply some data, but there’s a problem. EAPs are notoriously underutilised for many reasons and companies pay for a lot of non-usage.

For example, an 8% usage still leaves 92% of staff who know nothing about it. Is it realistic to think that 92% were all absolutely perfectly well with regards to mental health? Or is it more likely that they simply didn’t engage with the EAP?

If the EAP has an 8% usage, for example, the data provided can only reflect the wellbeing of 8% of colleagues.  Furthermore, the 8% were the ones that were brave enough to reach out in the first place. This means that, in my opinion, the EAP is not a reliable source of insight for an employee mental health overview. The staff themselves and in particular the MHFAiders are the best positioned for any type of data and feedback.

I believe that if companies are investing in and trusting a speak-out culture and a non-mental health stigma environment, then the data needs to come from the employees themselves. This should be driven by the MHFAiders  – the very people the company invested in to be on the coal face.

This data can provide very useful insights as to what’s going on in the company and its culture. For example, the anonymous notes provided by MHFAiders might show a pattern of depression and stress in certain departments. Or the data might indicate an overall feeling of not being understood by line managers regarding mental health issues.

There is a general lack of understanding around coping mechanisms such as the use of alcohol and sleeping tablets. Unhealthy distractions such as gaming and gambling also lead for example to over usage of alcohol. If the insights from the MHFAiders reveal that these are issues, the employer could choose to run some workshops related to these specific subjects, and also address issues around management training and awareness.

The usage of anonymous data will help to justify the ROI of mental health strategies. In my experience I’m sad to say that cost and proof of ROI are the biggest obstacles holding back investment in mental health and wellbeing programmes.

If the data can show trends and something can be done about it, staff absenteeism, turnover of staff and overall moral and communications will improve. This represents a very significant cost saving.

What absolutely doesn’t make sense is when companies invest time and budget into MHFAiders but then do not support them fully, or use them effectively. This includes the use of anonymous data for the bigger picture.

How can this work easily and anonymously?

Companies don’t launch a product and just hope for the best, there are multiple layers of process and analysis involved.

However, when it comes to mental health strategies they are often unmonitored and left to their own devices. It’s hard to monitor the effectiveness of MHFAiders and the overall strategies as anonymity is key in the process, so anything that might jeopardize that isn’t acceptable.

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But it’s important to remember that some data tracking is better than none.

The mental health first aiders need some upskilling and their own platform for resources and anonymous note-taking.

Red Umbrella provides the upskilling, the vital support and supervision for the MHFAiders and the bespoke, your own company-branded platform for the MHFAiders to use.

When a mental health first aider has a conversation with a colleague, they simply make some basic notes. No names are mentioned, no other details are taken other than the anonymous notes. Relevant boxes are also ticked. It would look like this:

Anonymous surveys can also be sent out to staff for employees to contribute to the data separately.

Nothing to lose

Once you have this Red Umbrella system branded and bespoke to your needs, you can get an overall report that simply shows the MHFAiders engagements anonymously.

After liaising with their MHFAiders and looking at anonymous surveys, one company realised that a lot of stress and anxiety and self-esteem problems were coming from a particular department. Some line managers lacked empathy regarding certain mental health issues.

As a result, a specific workshop, one to one mediation and line manager awareness training were set up and the issues in this area were resolved.

The system also keeps mental health first aiders’ information up to date. This is important to keep track of. For instance, it’s helpful to keep reminders of when refresher training is due. The easy to use section looks like this:

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The platform provided by Red Umbrella is bespoke to your company for a very small investment between £1500 and £3000. The starting package includes care coins that can be used for multiple mental health services and training, so there is already a guaranteed ROI on this investment.

The tracking system is not only helpful for understanding effectiveness and ROI. It also helps to ensure MHFAiders are not being overworked and put under too much stress in this volunteer role.

I recommend that all MHFAiders should also join for networking, peer support, resources and most importantly independent professional supervision.

Red umbrella with care coins and the platform is everything you need to supply independent support, fill in any gaps left in your current strategies  and have access to relevant, anonymous data, easily and cost-effectively.

You might also be interested in this interview with Tim Ladd where he talks about Making Mental Health First Aid Work

About the author

Tim Ladd is an entrepreneur who has created businesses in Germany and the UK, and due to his own personal journey is passionate about mental health. Having worked in the residential rehab sector, Tim set up Red Umbrella in 2013, initially as an ethical referral agency for people suffering from alcohol and drug addictions and eating disorders. The business quickly evolved to provide workshops and MHFA training for employers. Tim realised it made no sense to train MHFAiders and then not fully support them, and that EAP’s are underutilised and too expensive in relation to effectiveness. So set his sights on providing mental health-specific EAP’s that were innovative and only pay as needed, so that valuable company resources are not wasted in attempting to support employees, as this is often a stumbling block in implementing mental health strategies.  




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