By Shauna Murray

There’s no denying that mental ill health is on the rise and although we still have a long way to go; more people than ever are openly discussing their personal issues with the aim of educating people and de-stigmatising mental health issues.

When Cundall launched the Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) programme I instantly knew it was something I wanted to be involved in. Mental health is a hugely important issue and has affected many people around me which is why I’m passionate about being a part of the programme and supporting positive mental health at work. Experiencing mental health issues, recognising, and addressing them is a scary process and it’s not something which you deal with once and never again. It takes some self-learning to understand how to deal with these issues, to stop them affecting your daily life (and depending on the severity, they may affect some people daily).

The MHFA programme is part of our Sustainability Roadmap, where we have committed to having parity between physical and mental first aiders in each of our offices.

13 – 19 May is Mental Health Awareness Week and to mark it we have implemented things such as ‘Mindfulness Monday’, ‘Walking Wednesday’ and ‘Food Friday’ along with board games in some of our offices. Each of these may seem like small things but they encourage people to talk to each other, get away from their desks and take their mind off of any stresses for a little while.

I spoke to a couple of my fellow MHFA around the practice about their thoughts on mental health and why they got involved in the programme:

Sharon Stratton, Dubai

“I like to help people and mental health is such an important topic, especially with it being so prevalent in today’s society. Many people don’t prioritise it enough, and I believe talking about these issues is what allows progress in finding solutions.”

Stephen Maddocks, Manchester

“Stress and anxiety led me to take time off in 2016. I believe I suffered years ago but my GP’s view was ‘it wasn’t depression you are just fed up’, how wrong early views were. I wanted to ensure that Senior Management recognise the issue and that we have a strategy and the tools available that contributes to and reinforces the practice’s commitment to staff welfare. I am firmly of the view that mental health is a treatable illness, just as any physical ailment, we just don’t fully recognise it yet.”

Paul Devere, London

“I became a MHFA to be part of the movement for change around this area.  I feel it still has a stigma attached to it, particularly in males and I am happy to be someone who is helping, even if this is only in a tiny way, to change the general view of this issue.”

Jessica Barnes, Singapore

“I have seen first-hand how mental health can affect the people you love and care about. These experiences have only motivated me to prevent this happening to someone else, to be more aware of the signs at early intervention and to be able to help people.”

Kate McNicholl, Hong Kong

“We seek medical intervention for so many aspects of our lives and to manage our physical health so why do we hesitate when it comes to our mental health? I find this interesting and something that needs open, honest and supportive discussion.

What is also important to me is that we support the network of loved ones who surround those who suffer from mental illness, not just the sufferer themselves.”

Tavis Creswell-Wells, London

“Having been through anxiety and depression, as well as having others close to me go through it, I know the difficulties that poor mental health can cause.

I found that opening up and talking to people about it was extremely helpful in dealing with the hard times. While it’s difficult to do this at first, it can be seriously relieving to get thoughts off your chest and hear some comforting words from someone else. This is why I wanted to become a MHFA, as I want to be able to provide that same support for others.”

Andreea Purcea, Bucharest

“I became a MHFA hoping that getting in touch with people who are experiencing mental health issues would help me understand better the importance of opening up to this topic. There are lots of myths and outdated stereotypes – it’s a complex topic and unique to everyone.

I am thinking that increased understanding and awareness will hopefully encourage people to seek the appropriate support.’’

Martina Wenczler, Edinburgh

“I wanted to become a MHFA to show support and spread awareness to my colleagues as it’s vital that we address mental health at work.”

As a new initiative within the company, it’s a learning curve for all of us, however we all agree that we’re here to support people within the practice and we urge people to reach out to us. We hope as time progresses, we’ll be able to identify any trends in our staff and offices and put the most appropriate coping mechanisms in place to help our staff in the best way we can.

I’m proud to be part of a company who treats its employee’s health and wellbeing with such importance.

You can find out more about our industry leading Sustainability Roadmap One Planet, One Chance on our website.

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Health & Wellbeing, Shauna Murray

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