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Yorkshire Water makes mental health a priority

With awareness of mental illness growing around the country, many individuals and companies are looking to improve how they deal with mental health issues. For Yorkshire Water, this has meant the implementation of compulsory training in mental health first aid, which it is hoped will help to reduce sickness-related absence and help employees to work at their best.

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Wellbeing strategy

The occupational health team at Yorkshire Water has created a wellbeing strategy for its 3,700 employees. As part of this, the company researched the causes of sickness related absence in 2013. It found that in addition to musculoskeletal issues, mental health was a leading factor in sickness-related absence.

The findings are in keeping with other research into mental health. This is a growing issue that is facing increasing awareness across the UK. It also means that advice on managing mental health in the workplace is becoming more widely available.

Mental health first aid

In response to the research, Yorkshire Water began its mandatory courses in mental health first aid in 2015. Courses take place twice a month, with each lasting two days. Around 16 members of staff participate in the face to face sessions at a time, with the sessions run by a member of Yorkshire Water’s occupational health team with qualifications from Mental Health First Aid England.

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Around 700 employees have these courses since 2015. This includes 310 managers, with the hope being that they will be better able to support the staff working for them in future. February 2019 even saw some previously trained employees undergoing refresher courses to ensure they remain aware of how to maintain good mental health.

It is possible for other companies to follow Yorkshire Water’s lead. There are various schemes and organisations around the country that can help to implement similar occupational health schemes; for instance, using the search term ‘occupational health Bristol’ will produce multiple results for companies that can help with occupational health Bristol and the surrounding area.

Since the mental health first aid training began, Yorkshire Water has seen a 48 per cent drop in counselling referrals from occupational health. This suggests that people are feeling mentally well compared with how they were feeling before the training. Yorkshire Water considers the scheme a success and plans to continue it for the foreseeable future.

 

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