Mental Health First Aiders – clarifying their role

Seeking support and self-care are vital if we want to look after our own mental health, to in turn support those experiencing mental ill health.

Before we delve into what to include in a MHFA role description we need to be clear what we mean:

  • It is not a job description.
  • It is not contractual or have any legal standing.
  • It simply provides clarity of expectations for both parties, for awareness and information.


Developing the role description
It will not (and shouldn’t be) a long complex document. Ideally it will be developed with input from both parties. I run sessions helping groups agree a role description that fits their organisation because there will be different things to consider and it is important it works well for you.

Remember the three elements from your training:

  • Using the ALGEE framework to hold conversations.
  • Raising awareness of mental health and ill health, and reducing the surrounding stigma.
  • Recognising and prioritising your own wellbeing.

In my experience, people tend to focus on the first – the actual MHFA intervention, and may not give the same attention to the other elements. Considering these parts how would you like to describe the purpose of the MHFAider in your organisation? If you had to summarise it in a single sentence, what would it say?

What can the MHFA expect from the organisation?
In this part we will think about what the organisation will commit to doing to support both the MHFAiders and the implementation of MHFA. Elements you might want to consider include:

  • How MHFA fits into a wider strategic approach to wellbeing – the role description and policy should explain this.
  • Who has ultimate ownership for MHFA, ideally the most senior person in the organisation to evidence commitment.
  • What the organisation will be doing to increase understanding of mental health and illness, to help normalise conversations and reduce the surrounding stigma.
  • Any wider awareness training for all employees, and specific training for managers so they fill equipped to support their teams.
  • What will be available to support the MHFAiders including networking opportunities, sharing ideas and debriefing. See our blog on Supporting MHFAiders.
  • A commitment to enable Mental Health First Aiders to maintain their skills with regular refresher training.
  • The internal escalation process if a MHFAider has reason to believe an employee is at risk of harming themselves or others.
  • A commitment that managers will support and enable MHFAiders to carry out their role alongside their main role.
  • What will be happening to communicate to the wider organisation what MHFA means, who you are, explain the role, and the process for contacting people.
  • How to deal with conflicts between roles i.e., if a manager is a MHFAider, when speaking is it a formal conversation with the associated responsibilities to support and make adjustments, and when is it a separate conversation specifically about mental health. The same applies to those within HR.
  • Developing and promoting clear referral or assistance pathways so Mental Health First Aiders can signpost effectively, for example to an EAP.
  • How to measure impact, this may include:
    • Number of people accessing EAP or other organisational assistance programmes of support.
    • Rate of sickness absence and return to work – ideally tracked both before and after MHFA training has been introduced. This will also help in demonstrating a return on investment.
    • Number of people who feel comfortable talking to their line manager about their mental health.
    • Number of MHFAiders who feel they have been using their skills, either formally or informally.


What can the organisation expect from you? 

  • A commitment to make personal wellbeing the top priority, including stepping away from the role if too much going on.
  • To be ambassadors for raising awareness about mental ill health and in turn working to reduce stigma.
  • To maintain confidentiality, with the exception of communicating concerns about the mental health of anyone in your workplace to the appropriate person, if you believe they are at risk of harming themselves or others.
  • Creating appropriate boundaries around the role, including not becoming involved in ongoing practical support.
  • Maintaining and refreshing your skills to provide the best support to colleagues.
  • To provide support to each other and seek out support for yourself following a difficult conversation.
  • Record conversations to collate data, confidentially, for wider organisation use if required.

Bringing it all together
When you have collated the ideas for each element :

– Purpose
– What we can expect from you
– What you can expect from us

Bring them together into a simple document, using language that is fairly informal and collaborative in tone so it embraces the intention of the document to set out how you will work together to achieve the agreed purpose that will benefit those within the organisation and the organisation itself.

Contact us for details

To find out more about delivering mental health training in your organisation, or sessions to support your Mental Health First Aiders please get in touch on 01202 612 326 or contact us here.


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