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St John Ambulance is calling on employers to respond to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on workers’ mental health as it launches courses in how to talk about it with employees. 

The new half-day courses, offered online or face-to-face from 19 July, will train line managers and mental health first aiders how to spot signs that a member of staff may be struggling, how to start the conversation and how to support them. 

The training will highlight the many aspects of the COVID-19 health crisis which might lead to people suffering from anxiety, stress or depression – including bereavement, physical illness, financial hardship and isolation.  

The courses will also cover the unequal impact of the pandemic on different sections of the population, as well as the negative coping strategies people may have developed. 

The launch comes after a survey in February, of 900 St John Ambulance first aid training customers, found eight out of 10 workers felt their mental health was worse or more variable because of the pandemic, while nearly nine in 10 expressed concerns about a colleague’s mental health.  

Almost half surveyed said employers should do more to support their wellbeing in relation to the pandemic and a quarter of key workers said their employer provided no mental health support at all. 

The survey also revealed one in four people left a job due to mental health issues prompted by COVID-19, up from one in five the previous year. 

St John’s head of education and training products, Andrew New said “We know the pandemic has taken its toll mentally on many people and as things move towards normality, it’s important this is not brushed under the carpet. Some employers are switched onto the benefits of proactively supporting the mental wellbeing of their people, others less so.  

“But as people return to work after the pandemic, or indeed if they continue to work from home, employers really need to grasp the nettle and make sure they create an environment where people feel understood and supported if they’re struggling.  

“Having these types of supportive conversations is not easy and we sensed there was a real urgency for managers and existing mental health first aiders to be trained in this area. Building on our experience as the nation’s leading first aid trainer, we’ve designed really practical courses that will give delegates the confidence and competence to support mental health in their workplace.” 

He added that similar training was being delivered to St John’s own employees and volunteers.  

In May, St John Ambulance announced two new Level 2 and Level 3 workplace mental health qualifications recognised by FutureQuals, regulated by Government department Ofqual. St John Ambulance has taken a different approach to training for these qualifications by including elements of physical first aid training for relevant situations and an assessment.

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