This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and what better way to raise this important topic than from a very interesting initiative, this time led by the Linxon UK team.
Why mental health matters?
Mental health deserves our attention and for good reasons. Keeping a healthy body means avoiding diseases, such as heart conditions and diabetes, and helps you maintain your independence as you age. Likewise, a good mental health directly influences many aspects of our daily lives, and it also helps us enjoy various benefits.
The World Health Organization (WHO) establishes that mental health is encompassing mental and psychosocial wellbeing. This ranges from the prevention and care of people with mental disorders, with the promotion and protection of human rights, to the fact that each person should be aware of their own abilities and feel capable of facing the normal stresses of life.
If we think about it, when we feel comfortable with ourselves, not only do we manage better the difficulties that may arise, but we also cultivate more easily habits, gestures and even positive ideas. We can also work productively and fruitfully, thus improving our contribution to society. Therein lies the importance of mental health.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a training programme aimed at the general public with an approach similar to that of physical first aid (CPR among other useful skills): providing participants with knowledge that allows them to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health problems, intervene and respond appropriately until the person in need receives professional attention.
Before receiving the training, the volunteer must be evaluated as capable of facing the possible areas to be discussed, which include complex issues such as depression, stress, anxiety, among others. This evaluation also includes determining if the training candidate has the required skills to appropriately identify and respond to cases of ill mental health at work. Once considered suitable for training, the volunteer attends a 2-day training session that provides them with:
- An in-depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing;
- Practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues;
- Confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress;
- Enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening;
- Knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to further support – whether that’s self-help resources, through their employer, the NHS, or a mix.
The training is conducted by Claire Warman, Linxon HSE Manager, who is a certified MHFA trainer by the MHFA England.
Linxon currently have 10 MHFAs based throughout our UK organisation, in our head office and on our construction sites, providing first-line support for any colleague experiencing mental health or emotional distress issues.
We are very proud of our team in the UK, as we believe this is the first example across the industry where an entire Linxon project site management team has been trained as MHFA’s. If any person onsite (including our client’s representatives or those within our supply chain) needs to talk to someone about their mental health, employees are reminded to get in touch with their local MHFA through our posters. All information provided to the MHFA’s is strictly confidential, unless their life or others is at risk.
Support for our MHFA network
In collaboration with Atkins (who are also a member of the SNC-Lavalin family) we also run confidential monthly support calls for MHFAs to ensure that any issues that they are supporting people with are shared across our MHFA network and that adequate support is provided to the relevant MHFAs. Additionally, we have 3 nominated members of the team who are on call for immediate MHFA advice, including a qualified MHFA instructor.
We jointly run a series of monthly refresher training webinars to support our network of mental health first aiders (MHFA’s). These are 1-hour training webinars to maintain MHFA’s competency supported by presentations and recordings which are available in a SharePoint so can be accessed at any time.
The topics covered in the webinars are selected based on feedback from the team during the monthly support calls as the main issues that MHFA’s are supporting within the workforce.
The importance of being fully briefed and discussing issues that have been raised as affecting our industry provides confidence and a greater understanding to the network and subsequently support to the personnel working with them. This also provides a space to support the common good by allowing MHFA’s to share any concerns or trends they are encountering on the sites.
Coronavirus: a mental health crisis
The past few weeks have been scary for many of us. And while some have been freed from the worst physical impact of the virus, we remain incredibly vulnerable to the side effects of the disease. This pandemic is leading to increased stress levels throughout the global population.
Feelings of anxiety, mistrust of others, and fear of contracting the virus are common today. Misinformation and rumours about the growing threat posed by the virus make anxiety worse. The restriction of movement, although it is helping to slow down the spread of the disease, means that many families (often one-person) are isolated.
“Whether online or offline, bringing your whole self to work is a mindset that is better for wellbeing and better for business. When be bring authenticity, kindness and our whole self to our jobs, it enables us to work better together, boosting performance, creativity and innovation”, said Simon Blake OBE, Chief Executive of MHFA England. “In the current climate, and as more organisations move to online working, human connections are more important than ever. Nurturing them virtually will be key to supporting the nation’s mental health and wellbeing as we come together to tackle the impact of coronavirus.”
Our MHFA’s are trained to identify signs of psychological and social distress, including behavioural and emotional problems as a result of the crisis. The continued focus on mental health during their webinar sessions is helping to break down barriers and keep it in the light. Therefore, they also have positive coping mechanisms and can implement activities to promote good mental health.
Remember that if your mental or emotional health is not in good condition at the moment, it is always worthwhile to ask a mental health specialist for advice.
Mental Health First Aid England. MHFA England calls on national network of Mental Health First Aiders to support during coronavirus crisis. 17 03 2020. https://mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/news/MHFA-England-calls-on-MHFAiders-to-support-during-coronavirus-crisis/.
National Council for Behavioral Health. Mental Health First Aid. n.d. <https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/about/mental-health-first-aid/>.
Torjesen, Ingrid. “Covid-19: Mental health services must be boosted to deal with “tsunami” of cases after lockdown.” BMJ 16 05 2020: 369.
World Health Organization. Mental health. 02 10 2019. <https://www.who.int/news-room/facts-in-pictures/detail/mental-health>.
—. “Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak .” 18 03 2020. <https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/331490/WHO-2019-nCoV-MentalHealth-2020.1-eng.pdf>.