Bernie Graham and I have both been working in the field of mental health awareness training and facilitation for more years than we care to remember. We first met when Bernie delivered a talk on a training course I was attending. Attendance for the whole of the session was a pre-requisite of completing the course but I had to leave early in order to catch a flight to Germany. Bernie kindly offered to take a phone call from me the following week to fill me in on what I had missed and the result was that I got a lot more detail than the rest of my cohort and I was able to ask a lot more questions and thereby complete the course.
We struck up a friendship both socially and professionally and work together on projects whenever we can. This has included adventures such as providing awareness training to inmates in the prisons on the Isle of Wight. As fellow psychologists we have a lot of common interests and bounce ideas off each other all of the time.
In 2016, after Bernie had delivered 8 cohorts of Mental Health First Aid training for Lend Lease (multinational development and construction company), they were very keen to sustain mental health awareness within the company through further training and by monitoring the mental wellbeing of their employees. To achieve this Lend Lease approached Bernie to develop a mental wellbeing monitoring initiative and Mental Wellbeing Snapshots (MWS) were born. While developing a pilot for the MWS initiative Bernie contacted me re the mental wellbeing assessment tools I had been using for research earlier in the year. Cutting a very long story short- Bernie’s MWS pilot proved very successful and given my contribution had been pivotal to this success he asked me to come onboard.
Essentially we travel around different projects and, as it says on the tin, take a snapshot of the mental wellbeing of team members on sites; raise levels of mental health awareness; provide initial support where appropriate/needed and information on relevant help available (Employee Assistance Programme etc) and by doing so offer an additional means of enhancing site health and safety. We let people know that these are ‘Self-Care’ sessions forming part of a mental well-being initiative utilising a problem solving and signposting approach rather than counselling or psychotherapy- as some people find this less stigmatizing and that means that we are more likely to get to see them. The sessions also offer the opportunity to discuss this stigma around mental health and emphasise the importance of getting help as early as possible if problems arise in the future.
At the end of this process we prepare a written report to the client. All personal information is, of course, anonymised in line with the code of ethics we both follow as members of the British Psychological Society. The report allows employers to identify stressors which might be site specific or widespread throughout their operation, thereby allowing them to prioritise their resources effectively for their businesses and their people. We can then revisit a site at a later date to measure the effectiveness of the actions that have been taken.
We are currently working with some of the bigger players in the construction industry and we are really enthusiastic about the results we have seen so far. We look forward to extending this work into other industries as we feel the MWSs are making a significant contribution to enhancing not just mental wellbeing but health and safety in general.