Civil service trains 2,200 officials as mental health first aiders

Chief people officer Rupert McNeil reveals figure alongside new mental health guide for managers

Chief people officer Rupert McNeil. Credit: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

By Tamsin Rutter

17 Aug 2018

Some 2,200 civil servants have been trained as mental health first aiders, equipped with the knowledge to recognise early symptoms and provide initial help to colleagues experiencing issues.

Chief people officer Rupert McNeil revealed the number of trained officials in place across the civil service, alongside a newly-launched mental health guide for managers.

In a blogpost this week, McNeil said with this support in place, the organisation was turning its attention to “mental wellbeing” – including the training for officials, initially in the Senior Civil Service, to become “wellbeing confident leaders”.


This training was launched in June, and centres on how to harness positive psychology in the workplace through the “PERMA principles”: an acronym for positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments.

Mental health first aid training is delivered by the Charity for Civil Servants, accredited by Mental Health First Aid England, in conjunction with Civil Service Local. The two-day training course teaches participants how to spot the early signs of a mental health issue, help prevent someone from hurting themselves or others, guide someone towards the right support and reduce the stigma around mental health issues.

McNeil said: “Supporting the mental health of civil service employees is hugely important to us, and is a key part of our ambition to be the UK's most inclusive employer by 2020.”

He noted that last month government held the first ever Civil Service Mental Health Conference, hosted at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and added that he had shared civil service best practice at July’s work, health, and disability public sector summit.

Earlier this year several civil service organisations were commended by leading mental health charity Mind for best practice in mental health employee policy, including two ministerial departments.

Of the 75 organisations celebrated at this year’s Mind Workplace Wellbeing Index Awards, held in April, nine were government bodies.

Companies House, the Environment Agency and Historic England were all awarded gold, for “achieving excellence” by successfully embedding mental health into their policies and practices, and demonstrating a long-term and in-depth commitment to staff mental health.

The silver award, for “achieving impact”, was given to employers that had demonstrated progress and achievements in promoting staff mental health, including the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Foreign Office, HMRC Benefits and Credits, MI5 and Public Health England.

Natural England received a bronze award, for “achieving change”, awarded to employers “who have started their journey to better mental health at work by developing and implementing initiatives that promote positive mental health for staff”.

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