Businesses who develop in-house Mental Health First Aid Champions benefit from having a group within their workforce trained to promote a greater understanding of mental health among colleagues. This, in turn, helps to cultivate and maintain psychological safety within the workplace.
We recently spoke to Jennie McAdam, Executive Assistant and Team Leader of the MHFA Champions at Seco Tools UK, who shared details on the training; which stakeholders should get involved, and how their “Seco family” continue to benefit from the experience.
Here are four ways MHFA Champions can support your wellbeing strategy:
1. It’s an Inclusive Programme
Often the fear and stigma surrounding mental health conversations, especially at work, result in these exchanges being avoided altogether. At other times, avoidance may be due to the person experiencing a mental health issue feeling that they don’t have anyone relatable to talk to about their experience.
It doesn’t matter if you are the Managing Director or a newly appointed Apprentice, all employees are equally eligible for MHFA Champions training. As Jennie explains:
“This was not just for members of the HR Team. We want to represent all employees from different areas of the business to ensure that anyone needing support will have someone accessible and relatable to speak to. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we limited the numbers to eight initially, but have a waiting list for training in the future.”
Paul Dipple, a Warehouse and Facilities Assistant at Seco, has already experienced the benefits of being part of the diverse team of MHFA Champions:
“Having these people in place to talk to is very helpful. From marketing to engineers being able to pick up the phone or find someone in the office when you’re having a tough day/week…you know that people at Seco will always listen and help you if possible.”
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2. Inspiring Initiatives Employees Really Need
The Team of MHFA Champions has been in place since early 2021, and are proud to provide support to colleagues with whatever needs or concerns they have.
These Champions may also get involved in the conception or review of the company’s wellbeing policies.
"The best way to bring [mental health awareness] into focus is to treat it as part of our wellbeing conversations," says Doré Collett, Marketing Professional - Communications and MHFA Champion at Seco. "We need to equip as many people as possible with the skills and language needed to keep awareness high, and to be able to support others in a respectful and loving way."
Some examples of the wellbeing initiatives the company has implemented so far include:
- A Health & Wellbeing Calendar for the year, which includes national initiatives such as Time to Talk Day, Mental Health Awareness Week, etc.
- Regular (weekly) communications on wellbeing topics, such as sleep, stress, supporting children, lockdown support, etc.
- Physical activity challenges and campaigns, which include a Global Exercise Challenge where teams score points based on different exercise activities, as well as a more local Scavenger Hunt to encourage employees and their families across the UK to look for random items when out walking, etc.
- AXA Employee Assistance Programme
- Management Training on mental health awareness and symptoms
- Financial Support: for example, childcare and payroll giving alongside discounts on purchases.
- Employee Recognition Awards to those who reflect their company values.
3. Employees Have a Safe Space to Speak Up
MHFA Champions help organisations cultivate a culture of openness, tolerance and non-discrimination around mental health.
At Seco, “every business meeting and company communication starts with safety slides, including one specifically on psychological safety,” says Jennie.
“This encourages and allows every individual to feel safe to ask questions and offer their opinion and perspective. We also have micro-learning on diversity and inclusion and, as Champions, share our experiences to encourage others to speak up about their own in a safe environment."
David Magnall, Innovation Partnership Manager and MHFA Champion, can relate. Having personally suffered from mental health issues, speaking up became easier after training.
“I wanted to use my experience to support others, and to break down the stigma,” he says. “It is okay to open up and talk, and it’s okay to not be okay.
“The highlight for me was being given the skills and tools to be able take things a step further than just being able to listen. To be able to guide someone in the direction of help and support is invaluable.”
4. Strengthening Interpersonal Relationships
Better working relationships lead to more effective communication and higher levels of trust and engagement across the workforce.
Seco’s MHFA Champions meet monthly to support each other and discuss future focus areas. In addition, each team member also has a private check-in with Jennie, the Team Leader, to ensure they are looking after themselves as well as their colleagues.
In a dedicated group section on the company’s internal social platform, Champions post articles, information, and names and details of the team so colleagues can easily access these vital resources whenever they need.
“The highlight for me was how quickly people opened up to me, and how I made a difference to their life,” says John McGhee, Product Manager and MHFA Champion. “If I hadn’t taken the course, I would not have been aware of certain situations.”
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