Skanska’s mental health first aiders will be as clearly visible on site as those trained in physical first aid trained for the first time today as the company becomes the first to join a new industry initiative.
The status will be displayed on the new hard hat decals in the same manner as other first aid trained staff to ensure they are easily identifiable by the workforce. Training organization Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England said the initiative was the first of its kind and welcomed the move.
The initiative is the latest in Skanska’s campaign to put greater emphasis on mental health and wellbeing, which has been spearheaded by the personal experience of Skanska UK Chairman and CEO, Gregor Craig, in matters of mental illness. The company has worked with MHFA England since 2016 and was the first construction company to sign the ‘Time for Change’ pledge to take action on mental health in the workplace.
The first of Skanska’s sites to benefit from the new mental health first aider stickers is its £225million M42 Junction 6 improvement scheme for national highways, where eight out of 100 employees at the site now display the new sticker. Skanska said everyone on site, regardless of role, will know who to talk to if they need help.
Tricia O’Neill, Head of Health Risk Management at Skanska UK, said: “As an entrepreneur you start new jobs all the time and have to go to new places and sites with no network. It is difficult to create communities. You will often spend long periods of time away from family, friends and your GP. If you’re only there for a few months, people may not know you, which means it’s harder to recognize if someone is in trouble and offer the right support and signage.
According to MHFA England, more than 55% of Skanska’s workforce have now completed mental health awareness training or taken the first aider course. O’Neill said: “My vision is to have mental health literacy across our network and to cover all Skanska sites ensuring resources are available to everyone no matter where they work.”
Skanska UK health, safety and wellbeing manager Ken Reid, who works at the initiative’s launch site, said: “Having our mental health first aiders visible on site helps to normalize conversations about mental illness and eliminate the stigma surrounding it. The sticker easily identifies those who are trained and can provide support. People know where to turn quickly and, if necessary, discreetly, to get the help they need.
Reid believes the need for mental health support is greater than ever. “The last two years have been tough,” he said. “We have noticed that more people than ever are coming forward to say they feel lonely and isolated. The MHFA England training has given me a greater awareness of the emotional well-being of others. My fellow first aiders in mental health and I listen and offer advice on where to get the right support. It can be as simple as offering to have a cup of tea and a chat with a colleague.”
Skanska UK Highways Manager Glennan Blackmore added: ‘The idea of stickers, identifying mental health first aiders is so simple, but the impact for people on site could potentially be life changing. I hope this initiative will be adopted across the industry, helping to reduce the stigma surrounding poor mental health.
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