"In a male dominated industry where talking about mental health is generally taboo, encouraging people to talk more freely about mental health reduces any stigma and creates a more positive culture."
Barry Clarkson, Essity Site Manager for Tawd
With the global Coronavirus crisis highlighting the importance of looking after mental health, the volunteers are a positive addition to the company’s current wellbeing programme.
Essity is the UK’s largest manufacturer of premium quality toilet tissue with a combined workforce of more than 200 operational and administrative staff between its Trafford Park Mill in Manchester and Tawd Mill in Skelmersdale.
The group of 24 volunteers from both sites took part in a two-day, internationally recognised Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training programme. It taught the volunteers how to spot the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions, what to do when someone is experiencing an episode and where to access additional support.
Michelle Goulden, Essity HR Manager for Manchester and Tawd Mills, instigated the initiative after researching ways in which global business leaders are going the extra mile to take care of employee wellbeing.
She said: “With around 1 in 4 people in the UK affected by mental health in recent years, the plan was to introduce a pilot team of mental health first aiders on all shifts, across both sites.
“Work isn’t necessarily the driving force behind someone suffering poor mental health, but it’s important we look out for each other. In doing so, we hope to challenge the stigma around mental health, encourage conversation and raise awareness in the workplace.
“Now, as we face the unprecedented societal changes and uncertainty of Coronavirus, it’s important we take care of each other. Our mental health first aid volunteers are there to listen in confidence, offer important initial support to colleagues and guide them to additional professional help if necessary.”
So they’re easily identifiable, the volunteers, 16 from Trafford Park Mill and eight from Tawd Mill, wear specially designed uniforms with a mental health first aider motif. They were recently recognised by the company through an Essity Belief & Behaviours Global Manufacturing Care Award.
The success of the scheme has led to it becoming a blueprint for other Essity sites in the UK and overseas to encourage colleagues to talk about their mental health as they would their physical health.
Barry Clarkson, Essity Site Manager for Tawd, explains: “In a male dominated industry where talking about mental health is generally taboo, we hope to change attitudes through the scheme.
“Our volunteers share an in-depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect physical and emotional wellbeing at home and at work. Just knowing that there is a team mate to talk to will make our people feel better.
“Encouraging people to talk more freely about mental health, reduces any stigma and creates a more positive culture. We’re delighted the scheme has been recognised globally within the company. It marks the beginning of a journey to create a mentally healthy work environment across the business.”