Experts reckon that nearly three in every 10 employees will have a period of mental ill health in any one year. Half of all days lost through mental ill health are due to anxiety and stress conditions.
It’s something the business is very conscious of, says Engagement, Learning and Talent Director Amber Kelly. “Mental wellbeing is so important and we know from our engagement surveys that it is a key driver for engagement and our colleagues are telling us it needs attention, so we are taking action!” she says. “This made us realise we needed to provide more support to people, and to publicise it better.
“Since then we’ve run a series of mental health awareness sessions, attended by over 500 managers in the business. And now, we’re formally launching our pilot network of mental health first aiders (MHFAs).”
We have taken time to prepare the 40 colleagues who applied and were selected to perform the MHFA role. They have now been trained, and subsequently attended some workshops to discuss their role, iron out ways of working and begin the process of providing each other with peer support. The Health & Safety team have been facilitating and supporting these events, with OH Assist closely involved.
It’s vitally important that colleagues in the business feel able to talk openly about mental health issues. If you’re experiencing mental health problems, not being able to talk about them can be one of the worst parts of the illness and delay or even prevent recovery. “Having MHFAs will allow colleagues who are experiencing mental health issues to talk in confidence with someone who can help them identify actions and sources of further help to aid their recovery, says Phil Evans from Finsbury Dials, one of the colleagues who’ll be performing this role.
Phil and his fellow MHFAs have been drawn from across the business, and many have had some kind of involvement in relevant voluntary work. They’ve been trained to spot the symptoms of mental health issues, offer initial help and guide colleagues towards further support.
During the initial period of training, they have already been available to support colleagues within their own teams and sites but we’re now promoting them more widely. Their contact details are now available on our Wellbeing portal. In some cases it would be sensible for colleagues to contact an MHFA from their work area – for instance within Supply Chain or Network Operations etc. - but this is not compulsory. We aim to extend the MHFA network so there is better coverage for directly managed branches later this year.
“Our MHFAs won’t act as therapists but the training they’ve had has equipped them to reassure and support colleagues in distress in a caring and non-judgemental way,” says Martin Hopcroft, Head of Health & Safety.
“This is a voluntary role but it’s governed by strict standards and governance. Our MHFAs will be guided by a clear Code of Conduct - for instance, protecting client confidentiality and privacy at all times, working within their competence and ensuring that their own wellbeing is sufficient to sustain the quality of the support they provide.”
We’ll keep you posted on the MHFAs. Look out for our article next week where we’ll profile some of the colleagues who are performing this role.