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Press Release: Mental Health First Aid Ireland: Working at Home – Wellbeing Survey

Mental Health First Aid Ireland today published the initial results of its Working at Home – Wellbeing survey. The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the largest and quickest mass shift in work patterns globally (1). Understanding the effects of this shift on the mental and physical wellbeing of employees can better inform employers to create supportive and effective systems to support their staff. The survey had a total of 1,179 respondents across a wide range of sectors and focused on the mental and physical wellbeing of employees who found themselves home working as a result of Covid-19.

The survey revealed the mixed impact of the lifestyle changes that home working has had on the population. More than half of the respondents said they loved the autonomy of working from home, and 34% said they felt more motivated. However, when asked about their mental wellbeing, respondents cited poor sleep and increased fatigue. Some 40% reported loss of sleep due to worry and half said they experienced more fatigue than usual. Meanwhile, diet and exercise have also been affected with 24% admitting to drinking more alcohol, almost a third admitted they are eating a less healthy diet and 40% said they are exercising less. Respondents also reported a deterioration in there physical wellbeing with over 40% reporting increases in back, shoulder and neck pain. The survey also revealed that respondents found it difficult to manage the boundaries between work and home and 40% reported poor wellbeing as defined by the WHO-5 Wellbeing index. For further detail and recommendations for employers, see below:

The survey was adapted from a survey conducted by the Institute for Employment Studies in the UK (2). Almost three quarters (73%) of respondents were female and the median age of the cohort was 44. Almost two thirds (63%) of respondents were working for the service sector or public administration. 51% of respondents held management roles, 48% had dependent children and almost one fifth (19%) were caring for elderly relatives.

The key findings of the survey are:

  • 87% of respondents commenced homeworking as a result of Covid-19.

  • over three quarters (76%) of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the information needed to do their job is readily available and almost half (48.5%) agreed or strongly agreed that they had the opportunity to develop new and better ways of doing their jobs. 72% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they did interesting or challenging work.

  • In 90% of cases, no risk assessment had been carried out by the respondent’s employer and almost one fifth (18.5%) were not supplied with a computer to do their job.

  • Almost half of the survey respondents reported aches and pains, especially in the neck (45.6%), shoulder (41.5%) and back (45.2%) compared to their normal physical condition. 41% of respondents also indicated that they experienced more eyestrain than usual.

  • Diet and exercise have been impacted with just under one quarter (24.9%) of respondents admitting to an increase in alcohol consumption, nearly a third (30%) are eating a less healthy diet and two fifths (40%) acknowledging that they are exercising less.

  • Poor sleep and increased fatigue emerged as concerning findings. Some 40% of respondents reported loss of sleep due to worry and 50% indicated that they experienced fatigue rather more or a lot more than usual. It is interesting to note that nearly half (49.3%) reported that long and irregular hours were a feature of working at home with respondents working an average of 9 hours in addition to their contracted hours of work.

  • The mental health aspects of the survey depict a workforce with a lot on its mind. Almost one third of respondents (31.7%) reported not being happy with their current work-life balance and one third (33%) frequently felt isolated working at home. Many respondents (59%) are worried about job security, just over one third (38.7%) harbour health concerns for family members and just under one fifth (19%) are experiencing other emotional difficulties. Some 42% of respondents agreed that managing the boundary between work and home life is very difficult for them. 40% of respondents were found to be experiencing poor wellbeing as defined under the WHO-5 Well-Being Index.

  • It is heartening to note that 34.3% of respondents agreed that they found working at home to be motivational and over half (57.9%) agreed that they loved the autonomy that home working presented. Some 53.8% of respondents agreed that they felt valued by their employer and almost three quarters (72.6%) felt trusted by their employers.

The level of mental health and musculoskeletal issues identified is concerning and, it is clearly a growing problem. While we do acknowledge that thresholds are changing in society as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is clear that worry, isolation and musculoskeletal problems continue to be serious and growing issues that needs to be addressed in order to enhance and sustain the wellbeing of employees. It should be noted that upward trends in global disease burden caused by musculoskeletal and mental health problems were prevalent prior to the pandemic as indicated by Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in 2017 (3) and currently rank as the 4th and 5th leading causes of disease burden worldwide. Subsequently, both mental health and physical health problems should not be addressed in isolation, but rather as part of an overall health and wellbeing strategy. Part of this strategy should include the training of employees in programmes such as Mental Health First Aid, which has been shown to improve knowledge, reduce stigmatising attitudes, encourages disclosure of mental health problems and increases help giving toward people experiencing a mental health difficulty (4-6).

Considerations for employers and managers:

In response to the survey results, employers should consider the following:

  • Conducting risk assessments to ensure ‘home office’ set-up is safe and ergonomic and encourage employees to be active and take exercise.

  • Provide mental health support via both formal and informal means including virtual checkins, peer to peer support, access to EAPs and ensure regular contact with managers and colleagues is maintained.

  • Provide training to a cohort of employees at all levels, that enables them to recognise, engage with, and support colleagues who may be experiencing a mental health difficulty. Mental Health First Aid training would achieve this goal.

  • Attention should be paid to identifying and providing focused support to those who may fall into high risk groups e.g. those with financial concerns, eldercare issues, those struggling to adjust and or those prone to feelings of isolation.

  • Consider rethinking performance targets and monitoring. Involve employees in decisions about reorganising work and reallocating tasks and priorities.

  • Returning to the workplace will be challenging for both employers and employees. Communication and the introduction of return to work protocols and safe systems of work will help reduce the worries and concerns expressed by respondents.

Quote from the author:

Martin Gillick stated that “We repeatedly state that our most important asset is our staff. The results of the survey have shown the challenges that home working and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic present. These challenges, now more than ever, place an onus on all employers to put in place systems that support the wellbeing of staff. These systems should include both formal and informal supports that foster workplace wellbeing and may include training programmes such as Mental Health First Aid as part of an overarching wellbeing strategy. At the end of the day, a happy and supported workforce is good for business and society”

Quote from CEO Emma Balmaine

“Given that remote working will likely be here to stay in a much more prominent way than before the Covid-19 pandemic, the results from the MHFA Ireland Home working Wellbeing Survey are extremely timely and will assist both employers and home workers to adapt in a healthy and progressive manner to this new way of working. The importance of mental health and wellbeing of employees has been highlighted yet again and it is helpful to have the recommendations from the survey to assist us all to make the best of this new phenomenon.”

Quote from MHFA Ireland Manager Donal Scanlan

“I am very proud of the survey team at MHFA Ireland and thank them for all their efforts in making these impactful results public. To me, the survey results prove, what many commentators have speculated; we are facing into a significant increase in mental health and wellbeing problems as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic. At Mental Health First Aid Ireland we want to help employers support the mental health and wellbeing of their staff. Helping create a workplace culture where mental health can be spoken about openly and with confidence; a workplace community willing and able to respond to the mental health needs of their colleagues. As many people say ‘It is good to talk about mental health’, but who educates the listeners? That’s where Mental Health First Aid training can help.”

ENDS/

For Media enquiry, please contact: Q4PR

For further survey information, please contact:

Martin Gillick MSc. (Mental Health)
National Trainer - Adult
c/o St John of God Hospital
Stillorgan
Co. Dublin
Tel: +353 (0)1 2771458
Mob: +353 (0)87 7093587
Email:

Notes:

(1) The survey developer

Martin Gillick MSc. (Mental Health) is the National Training Co-ordinator for Mental Health First Aid Ireland’s Adult and Workplace programmes. The survey was adapted from a survey created by Stephen Bevan and his team at the Institute for employment Studies in the UK (1).

(2) Survey

The mixed methods survey was open to all employees who were home working and all responses were anonymous. Data was collected from a total of 1,179 respondents across a wide range of sectors. The survey employed the WHO5 index, an internationally validated measure of mental wellbeing.

(3) About Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a not-for-profit programme developed in 2000 in Australia by Betty Kitchener, a nurse and educator who herself has experienced periods of severe mental illhealth and her husband Prof. Anthony Jorm, an internationally renowned researcher working at the School of Population and Global Health in the University of Melbourne. The aim in creating the Mental Health First Aid programme was to extend the concept of first aid training to include mental health problems so that community members were empowered to provide better initial support to someone who is developing a mental health problem, has a worsening of an existing mental health problem or is in a mental health crisis. The MHFA programme has now spread to 26 countries and has been incorporated into many national mental health policies worldwide. An important factor in the Mental Health First Aid programme’s international spread has been the continuing attention to research and evaluation. A range of studies, including randomised controlled trials and meta-analyses, have shown that Mental Health First Aid training improves knowledge, reduces stigmatising attitudes, encourages disclosure of mental illness and increases first aid actions toward people with mental health problems (4-6). Summaries of these evaluation studies can be found at the Mental Health First Aid Australia website: www.mhfa.com.au The work of Mental Health First Aid Ireland is overseen by Manager Donal Scanlan and the National Training Team who advise on strategy and support instructor training. The programme is governed and run by Saint John of God Hospital CLG, led by CEO Emma Balmaine and Clinical Director Dr. Richard Blennerhassett. To date over 7,700 people across Ireland have completed MHFA training. For more information and to find out about our training courses, log onto www.mfaireland.ie MHFA Ireland Press Release 23 July 2020

References

1. Bevan S. IES Working from Home - What is the impact on Wellbeing? Webinar. Brighton: Institute for Employment Studies (IES); 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUoio1CslQk

2. Bevan S, Mason B, Bajorek Z. IES Working at Home Wellbeing Survey - Interim Results. Brighton: Institute for Employment Studies (IES); 2020.

3. Global Burden of Disease Collaborative Network. Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 (GBD 2016) Results. Seattle, United States: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), 2017.

4. Hadlaczky G, Hokby S, Mkrtchian A, Carli V, Wasserman D. Mental Health First Aid is an effective public health intervention for improving knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour: a meta-analysis. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2014;26(4):467-75.

5. Morgan AJ, Ross A, Reavley NJ. Systematic review and meta-analysis of Mental Health First Aid training: Effects on knowledge, stigma, and helping behaviour. PLoS One. 2018;13(5):e0197102.

6. Jorm AF, Mackinnon AJ, Hart LM, Reavley NJ, Morgan AJ. Effect of community members' willingness to disclose a mental disorder on their psychiatric symptom scores: analysis of data from two randomised controlled trials of mental health first aid training. Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci. 2019:1-5.

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MHFA Ireland – Home Working and Wellbeing Survey

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced thousands of us to work from home, but how is this affecting our mental and physical wellbeing?

 Our mission at Mental Health First Aid Ireland is, through education and training, to create supportive communities in Ireland with a willingness to address mental health problems when they arise and enable recovery in a supportive and empathetic way. 

In this regard, Mental Health First Aid Ireland is undertaking a survey that will help us assess how working at home for an extended period is affecting the Irish workforce. Whether you’re new to working from home or an experienced practitioner, with your help we can begin to find out more about the effects of home working, whether positive or negative.  

We have replicated an anonymous questionnaire originally created by Stephen Bevan and his team at the Institute for Employment Studies in the UK. Once we have collected sufficient sample data we will analyse the results and make our findings freely available on the MHFA Ireland website.

To take part in our anonymous questionnaire just click here.

Your participation will help us build a bigger, more accurate picture of how homeworking is affecting our working lives through these unprecedented times, and we would like to thank you for your participation in helping to develop a more accurate picture of the effects of home working.

We would also invite you to share this survey with your colleagues, friends, and family who may be home working at this time.



 

Record Number of People Trained in Mental Health First Aid

World Mental Health Day 2019

Over 6,000 People trained in Ireland since programme commenced 4 years ago

Approximately 1 in 5 Irish people will experience a diagnosable mental health difficulty in any given year

9th October 2019: Mental Health First Aid Ireland announced today that they have trained over 6,000 people in their internationally evidence-based programme since commencing training in Ireland only 4 years ago. Developed in Australia, MHFA is now being actively rolled out in 25 countries and over 3 million people have so far been trained in mental health first aid skills.

Mental Health First Aid is the initial help offered to a person who is developing a mental health problem, experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional support is received or until the crises resolves. Participants in the training programme learn how to recognise when someone is experiencing a mental health problem and through a framework of communication, how to offer and provide initial help. They learn how to support a person to engage with appropriate professional care or other supportive help.

The Mental Health First Aid training programme has been extensively evaluated and found in research studies to be effective by improving mental health literacy, improving people’s confidence to provide help, increasing helping behaviours and reducing stigma. In Ireland, MHFA training is delivered to a variety of public groups, workplaces and communities. 

*Approximately 1 in 5 Irish people will experience a diagnosable mental health difficulty in any given year. Many people experience mental health problems for a long time before seeking help and don’t see that people can and do recover from a mental health problem.

Mental Health First Aid training is available to everyone via courses that are run throughout the country, exclusively by Mental Health First Aid Ireland through a team of over 40 instructors. 

This achievement also falls on the eve of World Mental Health Day 2019, themed ‘Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention’. The goal of this year’s international campaign is to inform the public that every member of society can play a role in supporting those experiencing mental health difficulties, challenging the stigma and that people can be empowered to take action to promote mental health. Learning how to respond to someone when they are developing mental health problems can be done by learning how to provide basic mental health first aid.

Leading the programme in Ireland is Donal Scanlan, Mental Health First Aid Ireland Manager. Speaking about the milestone number of people trained in Ireland, Donal said, “Most people don’t just suddenly become unwell, but it may just suddenly become apparent to those surrounding the individual. If we could all learn the skills to be able to notice earlier and offer support, hope and a listening ear then it would be hugely beneficial. Our training empowers people in communities and workplaces to develop the knowledge and skills to recognise when a friend, colleague or family member is experiencing a mental health problem and how to effectively support them which can ultimately encourage and promote their recovery. Workplaces have been particularly receptive to the MHFA training as it offers robust, evidence-based training with tangible skills for the participants to take away and feel more confidence in offering support. We have delivered our training in a variety of workplaces and communities such as An Garda Síochána, Defence Forces, the construction industry, hospitality services, financial, legal and consultancy services and we even have our instructors embedded in the European Parliament. MHFA is delivered as part of the undergraduate curriculum to all pharmacy students at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.”

“We look forward to growing the numbers trained to over 10,000 next year, with refresher courses, mental health awareness sessions and MHFA Youth and Teen courses happening alongside our workplace and adult courses.”

For further information, please visit www.mhfaireland.ie

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

About Mental Health First Aid

 

MHFA is a not for profit programme developed in Australia by Betty Kitchener, a nurse and educator who herself has experienced periods of severe mental ill-health and her husband Prof. Anthony Jorm, an internationally renowned researcher working at the School of Population and Global Health in the University of Melbourne.  The MHFA programme has now spread to 27 countries and has been incorporated into national mental health policy in many.

Mental Health First Aid Ireland is a Department of Saint John of God Hospital the licence holder for MHFA in Ireland.  Saint John of God Hospital CLG is a not-for profit, independent provider of mental health services.  In May 2014 the Hospital signed a Memorandum of Understanding with MHFA Australia to adapt the course for Ireland and in October 2014 Betty Kitchener came to Saint John of God Hospital to advise on the roll out of the MHFA Ireland Programme.

The work of MHFA Ireland is overseen by Manager Donal Scanlan and the National Training Team who advises on strategy and support instructor training. The programme is governed currently by Saint John of God Hospital CLG, led by CEO Emma Balmaine and Clinical Director Dr Richard Blennerhassett.

For more information on how this could be rolled out in your workplace, organisation or community or to register for a place on our public courses, please log on to www.mhfaireland.ie or call 01 277 14 58.

Who is it for?

Mental health first aid is for everyone. We all have mental health just like we all have physical health.  Mental Health First Aid will typically be offered by someone who is not a mental health professional, but rather by someone in the person’s social network (such as family, friend or work colleague) or someone working in a human service occupation e.g. Teachers, Gardaí, line managers, HR personnel, Pharmacists, Prison Officers or Solicitors. The potential list is endless. 

Why is it important?

  • Mental health problems are common

  • Many people with mental health problems delay seeking help or do not seek help at all

  • Many people aren’t well informed about how to recognise mental health problems

  • Many people don’t know how to respond to a person experiencing a mental health difficulty

  • Professional help is not always immediately at hand

  • The more we talk about mental health the less stigma there will be

The MHFA course has been shown to help people grow in confidence, learn new skills and even help their own mental health, all the while challenging the stigma surrounding mental health in Ireland.

Course Evaluation

Click here for further information https://mhfa.com.au/research/mhfa-course-evaluations

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mhfaireland

Twitter: www.twitter.com/mhfaireland

 

CUSTOMER FEEDBACK

Aoife Ní Mhurchú (Head of HR – Sky Ireland)

“A key focus of our Health & Well-being Strategy in Sky Ireland is Mental Health Education.  We decided to appoint a cross functional/cross level team of Mental Health Ambassadors and engaged with Donal and his team in Mental Health First Aid Ireland to deliver in-house MHFA training to this new team. The feedback was fantastic with the consistent theme that they all came away from the two-day course with significant improvement in their confidence and ability to support a colleague (or indeed friend of family member) who are experience a mental health challenge. They also were educated on how to signpost an individual to the appropriate professional support service also as the course covered in detail the boundaries required when providing support. As it was delivered in-house, we had the opportunity to tailor the scenarios discussed to be really applicable to our environment and there was plenty of time allowed for discussion which was invaluable to the learning experience. I would wholeheartedly recommend the mental health first aid course to organisations that are passionate about creating a safe and supportive culture for all.”

 

Bethany Fiore, CSR Manager, William Fry

“We were introduced to Mental Health First Aid Ireland at an Ibec KeepWell Mark event and I knew right away that this was something we wanted to offer our staff. Mental health and wellbeing are important to us at William Fry and critical for the legal industry. The MHFA course equipped our staff with the tools to assist their colleagues and to bring greater awareness to the importance of mental health in the workplace. The course was so well received that we are already planning to have another group of staff trained and to roll out training for our team managers as well.”

 

*  Research carried out by The Psychiatric Epidemiology Research across the Lifespan (PERL) Group, led by Professor Mary Cannon.