A solicitor has launched a campaign to compel employers to provide a mental health first-aider for their staff.

Leeds-based Jodie Hill has posted a petition on change.org calling for the law to be amended so that it would be mandatory to appoint mental health first-aiders in the same way as physical first-aiders.

Hill, managing director of employment boutique Thrive Law, told the Gazette: ‘We need to have a more open mind about mental health. If we can get support in place from the top then we can start to do something about this.’

Jodie Hill

Jodie Hill

Jodie Hill is managing director at Thrive Law.

The petition, which has more than 300 signatures, states: ‘Training a member of staff in mental health first aid can help ensure that there is someone in the office who can recognise the signs of mental ill health as soon as an employee develops them. Having someone in the office trained in mental health first aid also helps to remove the stigma surrounding the subject and create an open environment for those who are suffering to open up.’

Earlier this year, the Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) published guidance for law firms recommending that they should consider appointing a mental health first-aider, or wellbeing champions and mentors. The JLD’s 2018 resilience and wellbeing survey found that the proportion of trainees who had experienced mental health problems has more than doubled in the last year. Among the division’s 70,000 members, 38% of respondents said they had experienced mental health problems, up from 26%.

Hill stressed that there is legislation requiring physical first-aiders in the workplace but nothing for mental health – despite the fact it is one of the biggest costs to UK businesses.