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Mental Health First Aid – how the industry can take action

Today, suicide is the leading cause of death in men between 15 and 49, with male site workers in the UK three times more likely to commit suicide than the average UK male. One in six workers in the UK is experiencing depression, anxiety or stress and two thirds of people report that they feel uncomfortable discussing mental health issues in the workplace.

Our Mental Health First Aiders explain what they learned on the course and why they wanted to become MHFAs

These numbers are staggering and, as an industry, we need to act if we’re going to reverse some of these trends. Talking and acting are often separated – how often have we heard that actions speak louder than words? Well the good news is that when it comes to mental health, talking is an action that we can all take.

At Eiffage Kier we talk a lot about wellbeing and are working hard to end the stigma around mental health. We have always fully embraced such excellent initiatives as ‘Time to Talk day’ and Mental Health Awareness Day, which are really helpful in opening up these conversations.

We have recently refreshed and relaunched our provision for mental health first aid, partnering with Mates in Mind and training 16 new mental health first aiders (MHFAs), which is one for every 40 people. We have developed a shared MHFA Hub on our intranet where our teams can go to find out what’s going on, to hear about upcoming initiatives and to meet the MHFAs. There is also a ‘chat’ function for those conversations you might not want to have face to face.

The Eiffage Kier Wellbeing and Prayer Room

On ‘Time to Talk day’ our MHFAs went round our office in Cornwall Street making tea for the team and introducing the role of a MHFA. This approach took the support to the people, rather than expecting them to seek it out. Our MHFAs are available, accessible and on hand to provide support and advice to staff when needed. They can be identified by the green flags on their desks and they hold MHFA drop in clinics twice weekly, onsite and off-site with details of how to contact them on the MHFA Hub. We also have a prayer and wellbeing room where people can go for a quiet five minutes or a personal conversation.

These actions are all part of a larger effort to remove the stigma of talking about mental health and to normalise these conversations. It has become second nature in our industry to talk about physical health and safety, and we know that prevention is always better than cure. By opening up channels of communications to discuss issues, large and small, we can start to make a real change in our industry. One conversation at a time.

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