This week, 18-24 May, is Mental Health Awareness Week. Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, the initiative aims to push for wider community support for people severely affected by mental illness.
The coronavirus pandemic and social distancing measures have meant that many people are more isolated than usual. Social isolation and loneliness can have a massive impact on mental health, so the focuses of Mental Health Awareness Week are more apt than ever. However, the pandemic has also led to some amazing acts of kindness that bring us together metaphorically, when we cannot be together physically. “We want to use the week to celebrate the thousands of acts of kindness that are so important to our mental health,” comments the foundation. “And we want to start a discussion on the kind of society we want to shape as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic”. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the legacy of COVID-19 was the kindness that remained when the virus was gone?
RSK recognises the importance of talking about mental health and encourages its employees to discuss any mental health challenges that they’re facing in the same way they would a physical illness. By regularly participating in mental health initiatives and sharing the mental health challenges faced by employees at all levels in our internal correspondence, we hope to remove the stigma associated with mental health issues.
In 2019, RSK began to build an internal mental health support network so that everyone always has someone to talk to. We now have 71 mental health first-aiders and 59 well-being champions who provide on-the-ground support for all employees across the business. By the end of 2020, we aim to have at least one trained mental health first-aider or well-being champion in all 136 of our offices. The mental health first-aiders and well-being champions provide an important link between human resources, RSK management and all employees. Their feedback gives us an indication of our employees’ needs. We also develop our health and well-being initiative according to employee feedback and are encouraged by the level of interaction in organised initiatives across the offices.
In support of Mental Health Week, we asked some of our well-being champions, why they decided to volunteer to join the RSK mental health support network.
Andrew Walker, Operations Director, ADAS
“For me the idea of being a well-being champion in RSK Group is very simple and it hinges essentially on the belief that I am in a position to offer support to colleagues, so therefore it’s something that I should do. I see it as an intrinsic part of my job. I am fortunate to have a very wide-ranging remit in my role as Operations Director for ADAS, and one of many good things about this is the ability it gives me to be involved in everything the business does and potentially to interact with every ADAS team and every team member (not to mention more widely within the Group). I see at first hand the everyday challenges and problems that colleagues encounter, and thanks to having been around for a very long time (longer than I care to remember!) I often find that these challenges are ones that in some form or other, I have encountered before, and I can therefore bring a perspective to things that is sometimes less easy to see when you are right at the coal face so to speak. It’s helpful to be able to say to a colleague ‘this happened to me once’ and to talk about how things were resolved and how everything came out OK. Sometimes colleagues say to me ‘I know you must be very busy so I don’t want to take up too much of your time’, and my response is – it’s part of my job for you to take up my time, so there’s no need to apologise! I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to talk to everyone and to listen to everyone. I aim to be a good listener and to give my time whenever and wherever I can.”
Felipe Couto, Managing Director, RemedX
“For me becoming a well-being champion comes from the belief that we are a community and for us to thrive as a business and individuals it is essential that we look after each other. As I see it “looking after each other” goes beyond the technical, operational or commercial mentoring inherent in our roles as managers and extends to listening, discussing and supporting colleagues with their well-being and mental health. At RemedX, as for RSK in general, we have always maintained an open dialogue and a supportive approach to our colleagues, encouraging people to speak openly when things are not right either at work or at home. The well-being champions and the mental health first aiders have opened another channel of communication, which I am very grateful to be part of and glad to see making a difference to my colleagues. I must add that supporting the well-being and mental health agenda at RSK also comes from the trust that I have that my colleagues and senior management team will support me when needed, as I have already experienced.”
Richard Pidcock, Joint Managing Director, Central Alliance
“Having worked in the construction sector for over 20 years, I realised that our industry was one of the worst at talking about mental health and considering well-being, but actually, is one of the most badly affected industries. As a result of working in this environment, I was also fairly ignorant in my understanding of mental health issues and well-being. On top of this, coming from Yorkshire, we are also quite well known for being ‘efficient’ at talking, which doesn’t help! As a result, I decided to become a well-being champion and mental health first aider, in order to improve my own knowledge and understanding, and to try and change the hard, unapproachable image that the construction sector has always portrayed. As we have so many remote workers, we also have additional challenges, in ensuring that everyone always has support, and the knowledge that there is always someone there to talk to, which is vitally important for everyone, but also for the effectiveness of the business. What I didn’t expect, is how both increasing my knowledge, and being part of the RSK mental health and well-being agenda, has also helped me.”
To support Mental Health Awareness Week, RSK employees have been invited to share an image of what represents ‘positive mental health’ for them. These will be collated into a photo montage that will be available on our website and social media accounts later this week.
We are also celebrating the many acts of kindness happening across RSK. We have asked our employees to nominate a colleague who has shown an act of kindness, for our ‘Spotlight Special’. This ‘employee of the month’ type award has a special focus on kindness for Mental Health Awareness Week. Nominees are also invited to share a video detailing their nomination, and we will share a montage of these videos at the end of the month. Look out for these on our social media accounts.