Mental ill health in the workplace is a growing issue with more than three quarters (77%) of employees experiencing symptoms of poor mental health in their lives according to the Mental Health at Work report released this week which shines a light on the issue of mental health in the workplace.
This World Mental Health Day on 10th October, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England is calling on employers to find out how they can support the mental wellbeing of their staff.
Here, Christina Butterworth, Occupational Health and Wellbeing Strategy Lead at Crossrail, tells us why mental health will be a vital part of the Crossrail legacy.
Crossrail Limited is building a new railway for London and the South East. It will be known as the Elizabeth line when services commence in December 2018, and will carry over 200 million people a year between Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east via 42km of new tunnels under London.
With men three more times likely to die by suicide than female counterparts, the case for prioritising mental health wellbeing in the current male dominated construction industry is clear.
As the largest infrastructure project in Europe, with over 10,000 people working across over 40 construction sites, we are in an ideal position to lead by example and leave a positive legacy for the infrastructure and construction sector in the provision of mental health.
As part of our health and wellbeing strategy, 12 Crossrail staff have taken part in a two day Adult Mental Health First Aid course and are now trained Mental Health First Aiders. 90 more have undertaken Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England’s one day mental health awareness course.
Why we train our staff in Mental Health First Aid
Health and Safety is our number one value. As part of our ‘target zero’ approach emphasising that everyone has the right to go home every day unharmed, we have embedded a health and safety culture into all aspects of the project.
The decision to train staff in Mental Health First Aid followed the results of a survey showing that Crossrail staff have the same mental health and wellbeing profile as the general population. From this we assumed that our population will have the same risk of experiencing a mental health issue as the general population, which is one in four.
Mental ill health can affect anyone and as an organisation we wanted to ensure that employees had people to talk to about whatever they might be going through and give staff the skills to support people experiencing mental health issues.”
We have since trained 12 employees to become Mental Health First Aiders and so far 90 of our line managers have taken part in MHFA England’s one day mental health awareness course. In addition 12 Crossrail employees have signed up to train as Mental Health First Aiders before the end of the year – we receive consistently good feedback around the mental health support offered by our business.
Many of our volunteers are team administrators as they are often the first people that colleagues approach to get a question answered or to find out where to go to get further information. Their training gives them the skills and confidence to help those colleagues while looking after their own wellbeing.
Alongside the Mental Health First Aid training, we hold a project-wide ‘Stepping Up Week’ twice a year; a period dedicated to health and safety for everyone who works on Crossrail whether than be on a construction site or in an office. As part of Crossrail’s commitment to this area of wellbeing, last October’s Stepping Up Week focused on mental health.
We also employ a number of other initiatives to address the stigma of mental health amongst our workforce including online training, practical workshops on personal resilience, stress management, fatigue, nutrition, exercise and mindfulness. Additionally the business is engaged with various networks and campaigns to ensure good practice and shared learning, including Public Health Responsibility Deal, Time to Talk, London Health & Wellbeing Week, City Mental Health Alliance and Business in the Community. We offer the opportunity for staff to engage on their personal and business mental health requirements, through the Crossrail-wide wellbeing survey, as well as feedback sessions on all initiatives.
We are dedicated to improving health provision in the construction industry as a whole, with all members of our supply chain contractually bound to have their own individual wellbeing programme, with wellbeing co-ordinators at every site. In addition we have signed up to the London Healthy Workplace Charter, are a member of the Health in Construction Leadership Group, and offer employees resilience workshops.
What the future holds
The Crossrail programme is now over 75% complete with services through central London due to open in December 2018. Crossrail Limited is intent on leaving a legacy for how organisations can get mental health provision up and running in their workplace. Lessons learnt by the Crossrail project, ranging from their Health and Wellbeing strategy to technical construction documents, will be published at learninglegacy.crossrail.co.uk.
Christina has been providing high level advice and support on health and wellbeing at work since 1990, leading the occupational health function and collaborating with senior managers to continually improve the health and wellbeing of the workforce.
At Crossrail Christina developed a flexible, pragmatic and compelling strategy focusing on leadership, health risk management, fitness for work and wellbeing and influencing our Principal Contractors to adopt and adapt a similar strategy. Taking a personal responsibility to upskilling the workforce on managing personal and organisational mental health and wellbeing. Also providing insight and advice to the RSSB Health Professional Committee.