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Danielle Poole

Communications Specialist, National Council for Behavioral Health

Mental health issues don’t take the day off

July 21, 2015 | Mental Health First Aid | Comments
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*Reprinted from Aetna Health Section.

Mental health issues don’t stay at home. They don’t take a vacation and they seldom take a day off. Untreated, mental health problems can translate into job performance issues, workplace accidents, staff turnover and absenteeism. Depression alone is estimated to cause 200 million lost workdays each year at a cost to employers upwards of $44 billion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To help employers and coworkers identify the warning signs of mental illness and substance abuse concerns, Aetna is working with the National Council for Behavioral Health to provide Mental Health First Aid in the workplace. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training gives people the tools they need to support a friend, family member and a coworker who may be in emotional pain.

The skills-based, in-person training program is available in two different packages: an 8-hour Mental Health First Aid Certification Program and a 4-hour Mental Health First Aid Course. An employer interested in using the program does not have to have Aetna’s Employee Assistance Program to sign up, since the program can also be purchased as its own option.

Linda Rosenberg, president & CEO, National Council for Behavioral Health, said the council “commends Aetna for supporting this important mental health initiative, which is an important step in helping to create healthier work environments.”

Hyong Un, M.D., chief psychiatric officer for Aetna Behavioral Health, says Mental Health First Aid supports the effort to fight mental health stigma in the United States. By acknowledging the issue of mental health in the workplace, the training program gives employees the tools they need to quickly identify when a fellow coworker is having an issue.

Un noted the training is important for employees who otherwise wouldn’t know how to handle a situation quickly and safely. “The stigma of mental health often keeps people from speaking up when they have an issue. That same stigma can prevent others from speaking up on someone else’s behalf. Training can help in both cases.”

The program works to fill a void in todays’ workplaces, where there may be few tools to deal with mental health issues and situations. Citing a ripple effect, Un said that training like Mental Health First Aid creates a framework to help everyone in the workplace, even if not every employee actually goes through the training.

The program is listed in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices. All of the interventions listed in the registry have been independently assessed and rated for quality of research readiness for dissemination. The registry also includes a list of all Mental Health First Aid studies and academic reviews from around the world.