Aon, a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions (NYSE: AON), has developed a range of client services for employers to fill the gaps identified in Mental Health First Aid provision. Aon’s services include strategic consultancy, data analysis and impact measurement, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) courses that support the Mental Health First Aiders themselves, as well as communication support.

According to research, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) courses are commonplace in workplaces throughout the UK1. They are delivered by many providers to support the mental health and wellbeing of all employees, including the 1 in 4 people who will suffer with diagnosable mental health conditions each year2. This is estimated to cost businesses between £33 billion and £42 billion annually, on average equating to £1205 and £1560 per employee3.

However, the research from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health(IOSH) highlights serious pitfalls for employers rolling out MHFA in isolation from a wider strategy, not least due consideration of vital issues such as the scope of the role – and, importantly, taking care of the MH First Aiders themselves. Measurement of impact has also been problematic.

Charles Alberts, head of health management at Aon, explains:

Many employers don’t know where to start with mental health support, even after the Government published its Thriving at Work report5. There is enormous positive support for high quality MHFA training, however according to the IOSH, significant issues can include boundaries and safety issues for the trained MH First Aiders and understanding the impact of the training.”

Aon’s approach helps employers to navigate the various considerations and to implement a sound mental health structure. It includes a strategy and plan, including measurement and data analysis. It ensures an employer understands MHFAs or other options, how to cost a campaign and to create a business case for investment. It offers three course options depending on employer needs, as well as guidance on how to establish Mental Health First Aider roles and protecting the mental health of MHFA’s. It can include a continued professional development course, launch communication, MHFA application forms for potential candidates and clear role descriptions that outline the boundaries of the role.

Charles Alberts continues:

“The MH First Aider role can be misunderstood – or not considered deeply enough.  So it’s not only vital that candidates understand the issues they may encounter, but also that they are a good fit for the role and given precise training. Some of the issues they need to support are not easy to manage so there needs to be full understanding by participants and employers for safeguarding.”

Another report, by the Health and Safety Executive6, stated a number of knowledge gaps have been identified that mean it is not possible to show evidence of whether MHFA training is effective in a workplace setting. Aon has developed a mental health dashboard to monitor impacts based on initial measurement and data analysis.

The firm has first-hand experience of rolling out an ambitious MHFA programme. Its own programme delivered numerous benefits including increased employee engagement with mental health, and a high proportion of interactions by over 100 colleagues who have been trained and ‘activated’ as MH First Aiders. Aon concurrently rolled out a programme which saw hundreds of colleagues attend mindfulness workshops, resilience workshops and Mental Health Awareness training for people leaders.

Charles Alberts summarises:

“We help our clients navigate through the various considerations to implement a sound MHFA structure, with resources and consultancy on MHFA programme design. We don’t know of any other company offering this structured package to help organisations and their employees.”

For more information visit:

1Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)

2Mental health charity, Mind

3Stevenson/Farmer Thriving at Work Review, 2017