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.
Tom Buick is our Acting Mental Health First Aider Facilitator and is based in our Old Channel Road office in Belfast.
Why did you decide to become a Mental Health First Aider?
I have experienced mental health issues myself and felt I was in a position where I had some experience in the subject matter and could help others. I’m grateful that I have been given the opportunity to use an extremely negative period in my life to benefit others, both inside and outside the workplace, for the better.
What did your Mental Health First Aider training involve?
I took part in two-day intensive training course which covered a range of topics relating to mental health through a variety of methods – including presentations, videos and group activities.
How did you find the course?
I really enjoyed the course and really felt that it helped me to challenge some of my own preconceptions about mental health conditions. My own views were tested during the course and I found it really valuable but also challenging at the same time. Some of the issues which were covered were very serious and prompted a lot of discussion amongst our group.
I found it beneficial to come together with other people who have a shared interest in supporting good mental health. We were able to get to know each other over the duration of the course and create a bond together. Many of us who experienced mental health conditions shared our own personal experiences which allowed me to open up more to the group.
You’re our Acting Mental Health First Aider Facilitator; can you tell us a little bit about what this role involves?
I trained to be a Mental Health First Aider in June 2018 and began participating on our monthly community calls. Madeleine Willett, Internal Communications Manager in the UK & Europe, is the substantive Mental Health First Aider Facilitator and when she announced she would be going on maternity leave, my name was put forward to take over this role. I agreed this with both my line and practice manager, as it involves having time away from my day-to-day workload and took up the post formally in February this year. I’m also a founding member of the Mindfulness at Work group so I feel comfortable undertaking the responsibilities that this role involves –facilitating MHFA Community calls, collating and producing awareness resources like the presentations I’ll be giving this week. I also provide support for members of the network who are listening to colleagues discussing a wide range of difficult issues, by giving them a chance for a debrief. Sharing lessons learned and promoting the importance of mental wellbeing throughout our global business.
Why, in your opinion, is it important to have both physical and mental first aid available to staff in an organisation?
I’ve always said that mental health is the poor cousin of physical health. Physical health, in my opinion, has always had a significant amount of funding by both government and big corporations but the main global cause of individuals taking time off work due to sickness is now recognised as mental health issues – things like stress, anxiety and depression.
Our Mental Health First Aider community aren’t councillors or professionals, but we’re a network of people who can lend an ear to listen to those in our business suffering with their own mental health issues and we have the knowledge and information to help people become aware of any issues they are experiencing and proactively signpost our people to resources available to them to safeguard and help to improve their mental health.
I think our Mental Health First Aider network is becoming more and more visible and this shows that our organisation takes the mental health of those who work for them seriously. Having a visible and supported network allows our people to speak up when they’re experiencing poor mental health sooner, it also means that they can find out about other resources, tools and support available to them quicker which can help them cope in a challenging situation, but also can teach them about ways in which they can continue to look after their mental wellbeing.
What could other companies learn from our Mental Healht First Aider programme?
I think other companies could learn a lot from us. Having the backing of senior management is really important, not only in terms of policy but also in terms of funding for operating a Mental Health First Aider network. You wouldn’t expect physical first aiders to not allocate some of their time to support colleagues to look after their physical health so giving our network the time and space to train and support their local people is really key to the success of the programme.
What do you do to maintain your mental wellbeing?
I really try to maintain strict boundaries between my personal time and my work time, I’ve really found that key to safeguarding my own mental health. I’ve also sought to develop my emotional intelligence so that I now understand when things are going wrong for me, what my triggers are and the symptoms that can come as a result of them. Sometimes it’s a case of realising when a step back is needed and when I need to practice an increased level of self-care.
On a personal note, I’m also one of the founding members of the Mindfulness at Work group. I practice dynamic mindfulness – I don’t have a set practice, but I utilise the techniques and tools I’ve learnt about as part of my day-to-day life.