Meet our mental health first aiders

As an organisation, we’re proud to say that we focus on our employees’ mental health all year round and have dedicated mental health first aiders across our business to provide support to those needing it.

All of our mental health first aiders have been trained in conjunction with Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England – a social enterprise with a vision to improve the mental health of the nation.

Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week (9 to 15 May), we caught up with our mental health first aiders to understand why they have volunteered themselves for this role, what it means to them to provide support to their colleagues, and why they think this year’s focus on loneliness is an important topic to talk about. This is what they had to say…

Why did you decide to become a mental health first aider?

  • Jo Taylor, PA to Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer: “I decided to become a mental health first aider for personal reasons. I have lost two friends through mental health issues and I want to try and help people who struggle with this.”
  • Mariam Ibrahim, Support Hub Team Leader: “I have personally struggled with my mental health for over 10 years now, and I have been at points where I have felt like I have had no one to talk to in the past. Now that I have now gotten the help I need and feel in a more stable place, I decided to become a mental health first aider to try and help others who are struggling and may feel that they have no one to talk to.”

What does it mean to you to be involved in this initiative?

  • Rachel Thomas – Head of Premises & Facilities: “It is comforting to know that you are working for an organisation that cares enough about its employees to offer such great service. It is also rewarding to be able to offer support to colleagues who are struggling with what is often a combination of work and personal issues. Seeing the difference it makes and giving someone the time they need to talk is extremely important and helps with well-being, productivity as well as attrition.”
  • Jennifer Dowling-Woods, Customer Service Manager – Support Hub: “As a mental health first aider, I feel very privileged to be trusted with supporting my colleagues’ wellbeing.”

What does your role as a mental health first aider include?

  • Rachel Thomas: “As mental health first aiders, we are there for people when they have reached a point where they are struggling with work, home, both, or anything else that is happening in their lives and feel they don’t have anyone else to turn to. Not everyone has supportive families or friends available and many that we speak to are often new to the business and really concerned about how their mental health will affect their job. People are often afraid of losing a job if they show weakness with regard to mental health, so it’s really important that they are able to come to us for support and also be signposted to the many other great employee assistance programmes offered by our organisation. We will listen, we will not judge, we will be an empathetic and understanding ear and we will continue to support colleagues until they feel able to move forward themselves.”

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week campaign is focusing on loneliness – how do you think focusing on this theme can help people and raise awareness?

  • Jo Taylor: “Focusing on the topic of loneliness will help people know that others feel the same way as they do and provide them with the help to overcome this. Hopefully, by focusing on this topic, mental health awareness week will offer advice on what people can do to manage loneliness.”
  • Mariam Ibrahim: “Especially with the past couple of years of dealing with a pandemic, I think it is really important to focus on loneliness to try to help people re-enter society. We’ve all, at points, felt lonely during these difficult times, so hopefully, it can show people that there are others that are going through a similar experience and they can learn how they have combated this.”

How does it make you feel that our organisation has a mental health first aid team and a focus on the mental wellbeing of our employees?

  • Jennifer Dowling-Woods: “I feel a real sense of achievement. We are given the opportunity to help enhance people’s lives, with what the organisation offers from the mental health first aid initiative, and the employee assistance programme. Time is precious in business, but sometimes taking just 10 minutes out of your day to listen to and support someone can be priceless and extremely valuable for both parties.”
  • Rachel Thomas: “It makes me feel pleased to work for an organisation that cares about its staff. As an organisation, we go out of our way to focus on well-being in many ways, not just with the support of the mental health first aiders. Knowing that you have an understanding and caring employer goes a long way to really helping those struggling with mental health issues.”
  • Jo Taylor: “It makes me feel really proud that we have this team and that I am a part of it. It helps people in so many ways. Mental health is such an important subject that we need to do as much as we can to raise awareness around it.”
  • Mariam Ibrahim: “To me, this is a key part of the functionality of having healthy and happy workers, and it’s really important and key that the organisation continues investing in things like this. It makes me feel proud and cared for. It’s good to see a previously taboo (and sometimes still a taboo subject) being talked about more frequently.”

This article was written when we were B&CE, before we changed our name to People’s Partnership in November 2022.