Delegates voice the need for mental health first aiders

Disabled members speak out about the importance of mental health care and the role that mental health first aid can play

A busy afternoon saw delegates to UNISON disabled members’ conference debate motions covering a wide range of issues.

A group debate in Brighton around the need for mental health first aiders saw Steven Powers from the Northern region first clarify that “a mental health first aider can, with the correct training, listen to your concerns and get you the support that you need” – they would no more be handing out “happy pills” than a conventional first aider would be performing surgery.

Mental health first aider Christine Jackson of Newcastle City branch told delegates that she had used the training “quite a bit” and also been the beneficiary of the others undergoing the same training.

Callum Lam of the East Midlands ambulance service explained that he and his colleagues often experience traumatic situations in their work and mental health first aid could be of help to them, spotting a situation before someone then gets into difficulties by, for instance, taking time off work without permission.

One delegate shared their experience of a nervous breakdown shortly after a conference, and called for mental health first aiders to be present at such events, as well as in the workplace.

Delegates also discussed how hot-desking impacts negatively impacts on disabled workers.

Since people cannot carry around all the reasonable adjustment equipment that allows them to work, you have to “rock up and hope you can find a desk – and a decent chair”.

And it was also reported that hot-desking can cause particular difficulties for menopausal women. It was recommended that the national committee should publicise “UNISON’s guide, The Menopause and Work”.