Staff Mental Health First Aider Guidance

This guidance has been developed to support those Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAiders) who have taken up the two-day Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course based on personal interest, or been trained by departments wishing to engage with mental health awareness activities. This guidance seeks to cover the themes of MHFAiders' continuing development, reflective practice, clear roles, responsibilities and boundaries, managerial support and structure. It has been developed with a view to being rolled out in conjunction with a University-wide system of support for MHFAiders, more details can be found on the MHFAider resources page


Mental Health First Aid in the workplace is not endorsed or promoted by the University, and there is no requirement for departments to have Mental Health First Aiders (and no intention to introduce such a requirement).

Staff Mental Health First Aider Guidance

The purpose of this Staff Mental Health First Aid guidance is to outline the University of Oxford's approach to Staff Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAiders) in the workplace. Departments may choose to train one or more staff as MHFAiders, but there is no requirement for departments to have MHFAiders and MHFAiders should be identified by their departments as one of a range of sources of support available to staff. 

  1. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a training course which “teaches people how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue” . 
  2. An MHFAider is a person who has been formally trained and accredited in MHFA in their workplace, by attending an Adult MHFA course that has been delivered by an Accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor. 

The role of the Mental Health First Aider is to: 
•    Listen to, reassure and respond to any member of the department who approaches them in that role; 
•    Support colleagues and students to identify helpful measures they might need for recovery of their wellbeing or successful management of symptoms by signposting to resources and services available to them;
•    Whilst Staff MHFAiders may on occasion be called upon to offer support to a colleague or student in a mental health crisis, it is important to be clear that their role is to reassure and to signpost to appropriate professional support at the earliest opportunity.  MHFAiders are not expected to provide ongoing support, although it may be helpful to have a follow-up conversation in some cases.


The Mental Health First Aider must:
•    Have the agreement of their line manager and the Head of Department or Head of Administration and Finance to undertake, and continue to hold the role;
•    Provide evidence that they hold a current Mental Health First Aid certificate endorsed by Mental Health First Aid England and undertake mandatory refresher training of half a day every three years; 
•    Understand that the role is to listen and signpost and not go beyond this remit;
•    Undertake regular Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and reflective practice facilitated by a suitably qualified clinician;
•    Have the agreement of their line manager that there is enough flexibility in their role to be able to take on and continue to hold this role. In addition to needing sufficient capacity to respond to requests for support, time will be needed for CPD activities;
•    Recognise that operational requirements may mean it is not always possible to respond to requests for support.  In such cases the MHFAider should signpost the individual to a fellow First Aider, Line Manager, College or Departmental Welfare Lead; 
•    Maintain confidentiality according to the University of Oxford’s confidentiality policy, contained within the University Policy on Data Protection and the University Policy on Information Security and any other local, departmental policies;
•    Keep brief, factual records of all interactions with students or staff, recognising that all such records are potentially disclosable.  Records are to be kept securely according with the guidance on Record Keeping below;
•    Understand that the role is voluntary, but also held at the discretion of the Head of Department/Head of Administration and Finance.  They may step down, or be asked to step down from this role at any time.


It is the responsibility of the Mental Health First Aider to:
•    Maintain their Mental Health First Aider accreditation with a recognised provider attending appropriate refresher training every three years;
•    Attend Continuous Professional Development (CPD) opportunities as facilitated by the University, or the MHFAider’s department or division;
•    Flag with their line manager, as early as possible, if they are unable to balance the requirements of being a MHFAider with their substantive role;
•    Attend regular reflective practice sessions facilitated by a suitably qualified clinician; 
•    Engage with other MHFAiders via the University Teams network in order to share best practice;
•    Keep a brief record of interactions with staff and students and store records in accordance with the above policies on data protection and information security; 
•    Collect data on the nature of MH support being sought (i.e. for anxiety, depression, stress etc.);

The University of Oxford recognises that respecting the privacy of information relating to individuals who have received mental health first aid or may be experiencing a mental health problem or a mental health crisis at work is of high importance. All MHFAiders are obliged to treat all matters sensitively and privately in accordance with the University’s confidentiality policies. If a colleague or a student presents as being at Risk of Serious Harm to themselves or others, support should immediately be sought from the most appropriate source which may include the individual’s GP or emergency services. 

You can share an individual’s personal data to prevent Risk of Serious Harm to their physical or mental wellbeing in an emergency situation, or to protect life, but otherwise any sharing should be with express informed consent and should be proportionate and on a need-to-know basis. 

Information concerning an individual’s health including mental health is classed as special category data and must be treated as such.

MHFAiders supporting students or colleagues should therefore get consent from the individual for the recording of all information, including email.  Such information should be recorded contemporaneously, only contain essential information, and be stored in a SharePoint file behind a SSO.


Departments wishing to train and utilise MHFAiders in their area:

  • Should consider what the appropriate number of MHFAiders is for their department to ensure that individuals are not overloaded;
  • Assign a MHFA coordinator (who is themselves appropriately trained and supported) to provide local support to the departmental MHFAiders and ensure each MHFAider:
    • Has the approval of their line manager and the HoD/HAF;
    • Is appropriate to the role demonstrating a trustworthy and approachable character; 
    • Shows the ability to respect confidentiality and caution when handling sensitive data;
    • Consideration must be taken around the robustness of the individual and the impact the role might have on their own mental health; 
    • The MHFAider co-ordinator should monitor the load on individual MHFAiders (including their CPD and other activities) and keep the HAF appraised and aware of any workload or other issues arising;
  • Ensure the MHFA coordinator is MHFA trained and has access to tailored reflective practice opportunities and additional training for their role;
  • Recognise the role that Departments have to play in supporting students with mental health difficulties as laid out in the Common Approach to Student Mental Health;
  • Provide the funding and time for the Mental Health First Aider to maintain their accreditation; this includes mandatory refresher training every three years;
  • Enable the MHFAider to undertake CPD provided by the University, Department or Division; 
  • Allocate time for the MHFAider to undertake activities integral to their role. These include staff interactions, CPD (minimum of two masterclasses per year), participating in the MHFA Teams network and reflective practice (minimum of three sessions per year);
  • Clearly communicate to students or staff how to access the help of a Mental Health First Aider at the University;
  • Ensure that MHFAiders are clear about the scope of their role, and do not exceed this by offering help they are not qualified to provide;
  • Ensure MHFAiders have a clear plan to implement when faced with a colleague or student experiencing a mental health crisis including sources of support, who to contact and a reporting chain; 
  • Encourage MHFAiders to communicate to the College or Departmental Welfare Lead or Line Manager as appropriate, any mental health issues concerning students or staff that need to be escalated at the earliest opportunity.
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Frances Parkes – Wellbeing Programme Manager