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Mental Health First Aid Law Proposed In Parliament

Image source, UK Parliament

Image caption, Dean Russell told MPs requiring businesses to offer mental health first aid training would save lives

By Peter Saull

BBC political correspondent

A new law requiring businesses to offer mental health first aid training has been presented to parliament.

Tory MP Dean Russell told the Commons the move will lead to more people spotting the early signs of mental health issues in the workplace.

Many businesses already offer mental health training to first aiders, but it is not a legal requirement.

Mr Russell told MPs that requiring mental health first aid training in the workplace would save lives.

“People do not always wear bandages to show where they have anxiety and depression,” he told MPs.

“This Bill will simply mean that workers have a person to signpost them to the help and support they need, when they need it.”

The idea has been discussed for several years.

In 2018, a petition for the “Where’s Your Head At!” campaign for a mandatory mental health first aider in every place of work attracted more than 200,000 signatures.

The extra training would come at a cost to businesses, but campaigners highlight the growing number of workdays lost to poor mental health.

The Health and Safety Executive estimates that mental illness accounted for around half of all cases of sick leave last year .

‘Prevent losing others’

Mr Russell believes the change could limit the long-term impact on businesses and the NHS, and ultimately save lives.

“We cannot bring back those we have lost,” he said.

“But through early intervention and ensuring the right signposting at the right time, through this Bill we could possibly prevent losing others in the future.”

Mr Russell proposed the new law as a Ten Minute Rule Bill on Wednesday.

There is rarely enough time for Ten Minute Rule Bills to become law – but they represent an avenue for MPs to raise awareness of issues.

Mr Russel attempt to bring forward similar legislation in 2021, but the Bill failed to go any further.

Health Minister Maria Caulfield watched his speech from the government benches.

Addressing her directly, Mr. Russell said, “This is not a request that will go away and I will be back if needed. It is a simple change that will make a massive difference.”