Mental health first-aid – landmark agreement with Royal Mail


All Royal Mail first-aiders are to be offered mental health training in an initiative aimed at ensuring that staff in every workplace have access to this support, advice and assistance.

As part of a five-year strategy developed jointly between the CWU and the company, some 5,000 workplace first-aiders will be invited to take the accredited Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course, as will the union’s 150 area health and safety reps.

CWU national health, safety and environment officer Dave Joyce, who negotiated the agreement with Royal Mail Group, said: “We’re pleased at this significant step forward in recognising the importance of mental health wellbeing of our members in the workplace.”

“The CWU has been highlighting this issue for several years and the subject has featured in annual conference motions and resolutions from our branches, most recently in April this year in General Conference Motion 69 (Composite) from South East No5 Branch and the Eastern Regional Committee,” he continued.

The training will be provided by in-house, accredited and licensed MHFA instructors and the courses are scheduled to be launched later this year.

Andy Hickerman, area safety rep for North Staffordshire Branch, says that “very often, the first aiders and safety reps are the first point of call because usually they are ordinary members on the shop floor, your mate on the next fitting etc.

“And it’s so important to have people within the workplace trained to help signpost people in the right direction when they need it.”

And his counterpart, Greater Mersey Amal Branch ASR Jamie McGovern, adds that “preventative action and early intervention are the most effective ways to support people with mental health problems.

“Many people remain in work whilst dealing with mental health issues, so the appropriate level of awareness and support for those suffering is both crucial and vital.

“We must be able to provide a level of reactive support to assist both those employees remaining in work and also those returning to work following a mental health absence,” he says, adding: “This will undoubtedly enable many more struggling with their mental health to take that first step to seek support and speak to someone, whether by phone or face-to-face.

“Talking to someone does make it better.”

ASR for Leeds No1 Amal Branch Paul Arandall describes the agreement as “significant,” adding that members with mental health issues have often had to “literally suffer in silence.”

This training will, he predicts: “greatly improve the possibility of our members remaining in work and recovering from mental ill health in time with full support from trained CWU reps and first aiders in their workplaces.”

Hazel Darlington, CWU member and chair of the National Postal First Aid Association (PoFAS) said: “I very much welcome this agreement. We medical/physical first-aiders are on the front line and we see stress, depression and anxiety amongst postal workers first hand.

“First-aiders across the country will welcome the opportunity to expand their range of skills to help fellow workers in distress in whichever way they can, whether it’s dealing with a physical injury needing attention or a helping a colleague with mental health problems, needing that initial conversation, offering support and guidance.”

“A mental health first aider,” Dave Joyce explained, “is a volunteer person in the workplace or organisation who has been trained to identify, understand and help someone who may in distress and be experiencing a mental health issue. They are not a counselor, therapist, psychiatrist or clinician, she/he is someone who is able to listen non-judgmentally, converse, reassure and respond, even in a crisis – and even potentially stop a crisis from happening, using the basic skills they will learn on these courses to support someone and then signpost them to professional help and support.”

  • Full details of how first aiders and CWU health and safety reps can register and attend the courses will be made available within the coming weeks.