There is no denying that Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on mental health awareness in 2020. Even before the pandemic, mental ill health awareness/illness was on the rise and it is now more important than ever that people feel comfortable and safe to openly discuss 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 in May 2019, 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, this may not be achievable).
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.
Ahead of World Mental Health Day on 10 October, I spoke to a couple of my fellow MHFA’s around the practice about their thoughts on mental health and why talking about it is important:
Sharon Stratton, Dubai
“I became a Mental Health First Aider at Cundall because I was keen to help raise awareness about mental health. As we know, it does not discriminate, it is important that everyone prioritises their wellbeing. Raising awareness is key to reducing the stigma that unfortunately still surrounds mental illness. During my time being involved in this initiative so far, I have learnt that sometimes people just need someone to confide in and that there is no shame in speaking up.”
Stephen Maddocks, Manchester
“As a partner in our business I provide senior level commitment to our mental health first aider programme as part of our focus on the health and wellbeing of our staff. I lead our mental health first aider steering group which is made up of volunteers around our business and they provide local support to our teams, as I want to ensure anyone with any mental health worries can reach out for help in confidence and with a feeling of safety.”
Sien To, London
“Prior to my mental health awareness training, I was unaware of the shocking statistics surrounding mental health within the construction industry. It is encouraging to see some contractors include mental health as part of their site safety inductions, but I believe we still have a way to go to remove the associated stigma. It has motivated me to continually reach out and support my colleagues and fellow professionals, especially during these challenging times.”
Jessica Barnes, Singapore
“I think it is really important to treat our physical and mental health equally. We can openly discuss a broken bone or a trip to the GP, but can we say the same when we are feeling overwhelmed, have low-energy, or notice a change in mood? It’s essential that both physical and mental health are not thought of as separate but treated with equal importance to our overall health and wellbeing.”
Meghan Hadley, Melbourne
“As soon as I started at Cundall I wanted to join our international mental health first aider initiative. It has been a great learning experience, and incredibly rewarding to work with colleagues around the world who have a genuine passion for supporting the wellbeing of others. It is only by talking about mental health that the stigma will disappear, which is why I’m so happy to be participating in World Mental Health Day.”
Suzanne Comerford, Dublin
“This year has been turned on its head, in many ways. Our routines have been taken away from us. There are some that have struggled, and without routine, stress and anxiety complaints have risen. We are becoming more aware of our mental health and because of that we are equipping ourselves with the tools to protect our fragility, allowing us to become more empathetic to those around us. Our mental health can make or break us, it is vital that we look after it.”
It has been a year and a half since we started the mental health first aider initiative within the company, and it has been a learning curve for all of us, particularly with the pandemic and the challenges associated with working from home. As such, our role is even more integral, and we want our colleagues and friends to know that we are here to support them, and we urge people to reach out to us.
I’m proud to be part of a company who treats its employee’s health and wellbeing with such importance.
Find out more about our Sustainability Roadmap here.