Company pledges to double the number of mental health first aiders by the end of 2022
TO mark this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (9–15 May), exclusive UK and Ireland Caterpillar dealers Finning have pledged to double the number of mental health first aiders by the end of 2022.
Last year saw the UK construction industry record its fastest rate of growth in seven years. As this surge looks set to continue – the sector is predicted to reach £237 billion by 2024 – a concerning consequence is the impact on the mental health of those working across the indust-ry.
Although there is no mandatory requirement for offering this type of support, Finning already have 28 of their staff registered as mental health first aiders. Each has been trained and certified by Mental Health First Aid England and provide confidential face-to-face or phone support for colleagues suffering with mental health issues.
By the end of 2022 Finning is planning to put another 30 employees through the programme to increase support levels for everyone across the company, no matter what their role or where in the UK they are based.
Andy Lockett, contracts manager, and the company lead on mental health support for employees, explained: ‘We’ve made sure our mental health first aiders are easily identifiable; we’ve each got a ‘Talk to me!’ email banner, along with a day-glow orange lanyard. We have several contact posters around each branch and have a mental health page on our internal Internet site.
‘Our role is to listen to any concerns or anxieties our colleagues have, and signpost them to the most appropriate support organization. We’ve also been trained to recognize the signs that someone is going through a mental health issue or struggling, so we can sensitively offer them support and signpost if necessary.’
Finning currently have 1,300 employees working at locations across the UK, including Staffordshire, Chesterfield, Slough, Aberdeen, and Dublin. Mr Lockett (pictured) took on the role of mental health support champion for Finning after going through a personal health scare in 2008. He suffered a bleed on the brain, was subsequently diagnosed with a tumour and signed off work for several months.
‘As well as being worried sick about my health, I was anxious about my job and my family’s financial situation because of being off work. The support I received from Finning, from my work friends and colleagues, right the way up to the executive team was incredible. They provided reassurance very early on that my position was safe and that the priority was on getting me back to health.
‘I can’t tell you how relieved this made me feel, and without doubt contributed to my recovery. The tumour is still there, and with regular checks and continued support from Finning, I’m doing OK!
‘Having experienced such support first-hand, I wanted to do what I could to ensure anyone else struggling or suffering knew there was a safe and confidential network of support available.’
Mr Lockett leads a monthly meeting with the mental health first aiders and shares weekly updates in the company’s internal newsletter to ensure they are front of mind for anyone who needs help.
‘There’s certainly been an increase in the number of people getting in touch in the last 12–18 months and the company allows us the time deal with it, which illustrates the importance it has at board level,’ said Mr Lockett. ‘I’m totally committed to this because of my personal experience and how it helped me and my family through an incredibly difficult time.’
Iain Carpenter, director of service operations at Finning, said: ‘We work extremely hard to ensure we provide a safe and secure environment for all our employees, focused on both physical and phycological well-being, and are committed to do everything we can to help when they need it most.
‘Increasing the number of mental health first aiders will ensure that all members of the Finning family can access the help and support, or they can call our employee assistance helpline or access on-line support tools provided thanks to our partnership with the Mates in Mind charity.’
Finning also provides ongoing mental health training, such as Starting the Conversation and Managing the Conversation courses, which began in 2018. These courses aim to break down the negative stigma around talking about mental health and give managers and employees the resources and knowledge to provide real and actionable support to their colleagues.