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Employers Want Workers to Help Colleagues in Crisis

Mental health first aid courses encourage employees to take better care of each other
Working late
Photographer: shironosov/Getty Images

In a glass conference room in midtown Manhattan, a few dozen employees from Beacon Health Options are taking turns asking each other an incredibly awkward question: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” There’s a right way to ask and a wrong way, and they’re here to learn the difference.

The exercise is just one component of an eight-hour course in “mental health first aid,” a relatively new kind of  training that, like first aid or CPR, is designed to give ordinary people tools to help someone in need.  And as with first aid and CPR, companies have begun to see the value in having employees who have the skills to say something, if they see something.