Mental health at Amey – 12 months on
If you’d mentioned the words ‘Mental Health’ at work even just five years ago, there was a good chance you’d be met with uncomfortable silence. But these days, things are changing. Barbara Silcock, Continuous Improvement Manager, is a mental health ambassador for Amey and has seen how important it is to get people to open up about mental health at work.Amey PLC United Kingdom 15/05/2018 10:07:37
Our mental health initiative started in March 2017. In front of a 40-strong network of Mental Health Ambassadors – and representatives from mental health charity, Time to Change – James Haluch, Managing Director of Highways, signed the Time to Change pledge on behalf of Amey.
This stated that Amey would commit to supporting mental health in the workplace and ensure that employees felt comfortable to speak up if they needed support. Since then, mental health has been a permanent feature for us. With dedicated support systems and activities, our ambassadors network has grown – and recently celebrated welcoming its 100th member.
Having had experience with mental health issues through loved ones, it’s a topic I knew I wanted to get involved in. When the chance to join the network came up after the initial launch in 2017, I made sure to put my name down straight away.
With 38% of British workers feel unable to talk about mental health at work, I didn’t just want to be supportive – I wanted to be part of the change to end the stigma attached to mental health.
Offering help when needed
My role as an ambassador, at its core, is to lend an ear to someone who’s going through a tough time. I’m there if they want a chat or if they’re uncertain on where to go to get further help. As part of this, I hold monthly Tea and Talk sessions (I always find a good cup of tea can help!). And if they want a bit more information, I’m able to show them what resources Amey has to offer – such as our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or our Mental Health First Aiders.
It’s great because if there’s anything I’m not too sure about or can’t give much advice on, I know that there are professionals on hand to listen and offer advice. We all work together to offer our knowledge and training to support anyone who needs it.
My role also means that I host events to try and get more people involved and included. One particular example was for National Stress Awareness Day. On that occasion, I invited everyone in our office to take part in some activities to discuss what makes them stressed – with the help of some tea and cake to lure them in. It was a great day, as many people were able to chat about how they felt when they’re stressed, identifying some of the causes and learning some new techniques to help them manage their stress levels.
It really brought home to a lot of us what a common factor stress is in the workplace and the long-term effects it can have. We spend so much of our day at work, it’s important that we take time to talk to each other about issues that are affecting us.
I really enjoy my role as an ambassador. I get to speak to so many different people that I probably wouldn’t have the chance to under usual circumstances. We really do have so many great people working here and you rarely realise what’s going on with people until you have those conversations.
Seeing someone get help they need that, just a year ago, may have been embarrassed to open up about, is a great thing to see – and knowing I had a small part to play in it feels great.
The road ahead
I’ll admit, it is challenging. And all us ambassadors understand that things don’t change overnight. If you think about it, talking about mental health in the workplace is still a new concept for many people – so breaking down those barriers to say ‘it’s ok to say how you feel’ is going to take time.
But I think we’ve made a fantastic start to the journey. I’ve already seen some really positive changes in attitude and behaviour around Amey in just 12 months. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next 12 months bring.