Lifting and powered access specialist Hird has introduced a programme of wellbeing and mental health support for its employees.
Four colleagues have been trained as mental health first aiders to assist team members and help them find additional support if they need it.
The Hird Employment Assistance Programme (EAP), as it is called, has been set up during the COVID-19 pandemic and has proved to be of significant help to some colleagues affected by the pandemic.
Above: James Carr, Southern Depot Manager, and Mark Pinnington, Southern Workshop Manager
Mental health first aiders
The qualified mental health first aiders are Health and Safety Officer Richard Christiansen, Training Manager Gavin Rymer, James Carr, Southern Depot Manager, and Mark Pinnington, Southern Workshop Manager.
Between them, they provide wellbeing and mental health first aid for colleagues across all Hird depots, in Redhill, Surrey, Halesowen, West Midlands, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, and Hull, East Yorkshire.
Richard Christiansen said: “James and I carry out all the return to work interviews when colleagues have been on sick leave.
“We always start by asking ‘Are you okay?’. We make it clear we’re not just asking about physical problems, but wellness, feelings and mental health too. Some are surprised, but then find being given the opportunity to talk very useful.
“That led us to thinking we need to broaden the assistance we offer colleagues with a programme of wellbeing and mental health support. The EAP was introduced at the start of the pandemic, which was good timing.”
He added: “We want more colleagues to become mental health first aiders and to make sure they represent the whole workforce. For example, we very much want female colleagues to join the team.”
Support for serious illness
Gavin Rymer was keen to take part in the programme by becoming a mental health first aider because Hird supported him during a long period of serious illness.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2019. After treatment, the cancer returned in December 2020. Following more radiotherapy, the cancer is in remission. His wife has been treated for breast cancer over the same period.
Gavin said: “Hird has been brilliant to me while I and my wife were being treated. It’s a mental challenge as much as a physical one, so I want to help others in the business who might find themselves struggling.
“First and foremost, we’re there to listen and offer support. Through our training we know a lot of organisations we can signpost colleagues to expert help for whatever’s affecting them.”
Colleague can contact any of the mental health first aiders in the company. Or they can ask for support anonymously via text. All the team ask is that they text back to let them know how they got on.
Wellbeing and mental health issues the team has helped colleagues with include financial worries, family bereavements and the challenges caused by the pandemic lockdown.
Some colleagues have said having a sympathetic person to talk to about these issues was all they needed.