Fiona presenting mental wellbeing to Tideway

Fiona writes:

As a health and safety adviser, part of my role involves raising awareness of best practice. This expanded in 2018 when I become VGC’s wellbeing champion.

I look at what VGC is doing, and what other initiatives we can implement to improve the wellbeing of our staff.

Over half of all ill-health working days lost are due to work-related stress. And more than 6,000 people die by suicide every year in the UK. VGC takes the wellbeing of our staff seriously. We want to play our part to tackle the huge issue of mental health.

Early intervention is key

Last year I completed mental health first aid training, and also attended courses on suicide prevention and mindfulness. Several of my site-based colleagues have also attended mental health training – we have learned how to provide support and guidance to people in times of need.

Early intervention is key to addressing any mental ill health. I want to raise awareness, encourage people to spot the signs, and to look out for one another. It’s not a weakness to ask for help: we all need to offload to relieve our stress at times.

VGC supports the Building Mental Heath Charter. Our annual wellbeing action plan sets out the areas we’ve chosen for promotion, based on NHS awareness days, construction related initiatives and the analysed results of last year’s Vitality’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace questionnaire.

State of Mind sport logoAnd our corporate charity for 2019 is State of Mind Sport, which promotes mental health awareness.

Practical steps

I’ve been working with my colleague Kimberley McGinty to deliver briefings on fairness, inclusion and respect, modern slavery and wellbeing. So far we have presented to over 300 people. (The photo above shows me presenting to operatives on Thames Tideway.)

We have partnered with B&CE Charitable Trust for a free employee assistance programme. This includes a construction worker helpline where people can get advice on financial worries, guidance on housing or social welfare, assistance with mental or physical health issues, including possible counselling.

The recent Business in the Community (BITC) Mental Health at Work report highlighted financial wellbeing as important for employee mental health. We offer yearly checks with our company pensions adviser.

We are also encouraging those people in our workforce who usually sit down to work to increase their fitness levels. By removing desk bins, we encourage office staff to walk to the recycling and rubbish bins. We have set up a group Strava account. As well as helping mental health, being fitter makes people healthier and more productive.

Some recommendations to help improve your mental health:

  • Say something nice to a someone else.
  • Be social. Spend time with friends and family. Why not join a sports group or a choir to make new friends?
  • Volunteer – there are lots of opportunities to suit your interests and the time you have available.

If you are feeling stressed:

  • Contact your line manager or contact us and ask for me.
  • Call the Construction Worker Helpline on freephone 0808 801 0372 (8am to 8pm)
  • Samaritans is available round the clock, every day of the year. Please call freephone 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of the nearest branch.

    Fiona Dowling
    Author: Fiona Dowling, wellbeing champion

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