Supporting the well-being of our people and creating a healthy workplace is a key pillar of our UK & Europe people strategy. We’re committed to creating a work environment where it’s ok to talk about your mental health.
We have over 100 Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs) across our offices in the UK. All our Mental Health First Aiders are equipped with a wealth of professional contacts and expert support services, who you can reach out to for a wide range of mental health topics. In the same way that we learn physical first aid, our MHFAs are trained to recognise those crucial warning signs when it comes to mental health. They offer a confidential first point of contact for anyone wanting to discuss their mental health or looking to support someone around them.
Kay Conlin is one of our Mental Health First Aider Facilitator Deputies and is based in our Stockton office.
Why did you decide to become a Mental Health First Aider?
When I saw the advert on Axis, I thought it was a really a good idea. I’ve suffered myself with mental health issues in the past and continue to, so I felt that I’d be in a good position to help people and break the stigma around talking about mental health in the workplace.
What did the Mental Health First Aider training involve?
I took part in a two-day course in our Leeds office with Mental Health First Aid England. The trainers were from MIND and facilitated the two days. I really enjoyed the training, I got to spend time with like-minded people opening up as well as taking part in group activities learning more about mental health. The training helped me understand the issues I’ve faced previously, but it also taught me a lot about the different types of mental health. I was shocked at some of the things I learnt about and the different types of things that are classed as mental health issues.
What’s the biggest learning you took away from the course?
I’m quite open as a person in general, but I really learnt more about the ways I could be more empathetic with people and the ways I could normalise conversations around mental health.
How have you raised awareness of talking about mental health at work locally?
After my training, I held a session on World Mental Health Day last October where I gave a presentation about breaking down the stigma of talking about mental health at work as well as a lunchtime session. This experience took me out of my own comfort zone, but I’ve found it’s gotten easier each time I do it. Every few months, we hold sessions in the office with the aim of getting people to talk. I also have a wellbeing board in our local office which I put information about mental health on. This means, if people don’t feel comfortable approaching me directly then they can go to the board and look at what support is available. Essentially my role is all about signposting people to support services so I want to make sure those who might not be ready to talk to someone at work can still benefit from the information I could share with them.
Have you had any feedback about how you are making a difference in your local office?
I’ve had some feedback from various people in our office which is great to hear. I think it’s important to keep on raising awareness through local events and sessions so people continue to hear about the importance of talking about your mental health at work.
What do you do to support your own mental well-being, and do you have any tips or advice?
Everyone is different so it really varies from person to person, but I’d say if you’re facing a situation in the workplace or at home and you can feel yourself struggling with your mental health then take some time out or away from the situation – even if it’s only for a very short time. If you’re at work, you could get away from your desk at lunchtime and maybe go for a walk. As I live closely to the office, I sometimes go home at lunch and see my dog. I also find going for walks with my dog helps in general – getting out and about and being active is something I find particularly useful as it gives me the time and space to think.
Why do you think it’s important to have Mental Health First Aiders in our organisation?
I think it’s brilliant that people are doing this in our organisation, I’ve worked somewhere previously that didn’t have anything like this and I found it difficult to know where to go to for support when I was suffering myself. To try and break down the stigma of mental health is generally hard but by supporting our colleagues and by training people like our Mental Health First Aiders who want to help support colleagues with their mental health is making a big difference to creating a healthy workplace.