Mental Health Awareness Week (15th – 21st May) provides a timely reminder to businesses to continually challenge themselves on how they support their employees. This year the focus is on anxiety and its impact on mental wellbeing.
It is all too easy to give ‘lip-service’ to this subject, merely reaching out periodically to staff asking if anyone needs help or support. Sadly, statistics show that those who do need help tend to be those who ‘struggle in silence’ and rarely open-up to colleagues or management.
In our sector, construction, there is even more stigma attached to mental health. Latest data indicates that workers in construction are nearly four times more likely to take their own lives compared to other sectors (https://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/construction-suicides-keep-rising).
Several years ago, the Directors at GRM recognised the need to put a robust system in place to support the mental health challenges faced by employees. These have continued to expand and evolve, and now include a range of initiatives including:
- Five trained and certified Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA). This started with one lead person several years ago, but a target was set to grow to one MHFA for every ten employees. This has now been achieved with representation across all areas of the business.
- Provision of an external 24-hour helpline provided by BUPA, whose qualified counsellors support both work and non-work related areas including relationship worries, bereavement, stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Emotional resilience training provided by a Julian Hall, a qualified external professional at Calm People (https://www.calmpeople.co.uk).
- Regular communication to all employees encouraging anyone who is struggling to reach-out to the MHFA team or other available services. The five MHFA’s continually re-enforce the message: “If you or you know someone that suffers from mental health issues – we are here to help & support – don’t be afraid to speak to one of us. We will offer our time to sit and listen and never judge.”
These initiatives have been well received by the team, with one employee responding to a recent internal email about Mental Health Awareness Week:
“Please support this guys. At my last place they didn’t really give a damn about mental health and just expected people to ‘man up’. It’s so important.
“On a personal note, I’ve got a close friend who was struggling badly with anxiety and depression earlier this year. Eventually he spoke to people at his work who were really helpful and supportive. It’s quite a hard thing to do to admit you’ve got a problem but it’s an important first step. Please use the Mental Health First Aiders if you’re struggling, however talking to any colleague you feel comfortable with and you think are approachable will really help according to my friend.
“If you see a colleague who you think is struggling just ask them if they’re ok. It could make a difference. We should all be there for each other at the end of the day.”
It is positive to see the measures taken by other companies to support their employees, and help is out there for everyone. Please speak out if you are struggling, no one has to go it alone.