Writing a blog on Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) as a 2015 General Election candidate set off a string of events. I was contacted by MHFA England CEO Poppy Jaman and we met to discuss her vision of parity of esteem in mental and physical first aid.
Several emails and months later, I met with Norman Lamb MP to ask him to consider how we could change the law so that health and safety legislation which referenced First Aid could include mental as well as physical health. Norman was enthusiastic about pursuing this, and wrote to the Department of Work and Pensions, asking for the government to look into amending current First Aid legislation.
Yesterday, on World Mental Health Day, Norman Lamb submitted an Early Day Motion which calls on the government to act to bring parity of esteem to mental and physical first aid, requiring employers to train staff in mental health first aid as they currently do in physical first aid. He also wrote an excellent article in the Guardian outlining the case.
The ramifications are enormous. Were this Early Day Motion to go to ahead, those suffering mental ill health would have people around them who the recognise early warning signs of mental ill health and give support before problems become worse. Those trained in Mental Health First Aid have the confidence to come alongside people experiencing mental ill health and provide immediate help. Requiring Mental Health First Aiders also increases mental health literacy and further destigmatises mental health.
The text to the Early Day Motion is here. Please write/email your MP and ask them to sign Early Day Motion 505. A list of MP contact details is here. A draft letter which you can use is here. We hope all parties will get behind this motion – all of us have mental and physical health, and this improved legislation will affect every person’s well-being.
Legislating for mental health first aid will enable those in the workplace, teachers at schools; staff at universities, key workers in public services, those current physical First Aiders up and down the length and breadth of this country to treat the whole person, mental as well as physical, in whatever health crisis they face. True parity of esteem is still some way off – all health should be inclusive. But until we get there, let’s make sure we include Mental Health First Aid in all first aid training.
* Kirsten Johnson is the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Oxford East and a member of the Federal International Relations Committee.