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Embedding mental health support at Opencast

Over recent years, the offering that employers provide to people in support of their mental health has progressively risen to more prominence, to offer embedded support across a broad set of needs. Whether you’re an employer or employee, chances are that you’ve encountered the growing awareness of mental health activities in the workplace.

According to CIPD, 35.2 million working days were lost to work-related ill health in 2022/23 – with stress, anxiety and depression accounting for almost 24 million – more than two out of three – of these days. Mental health issues aren't just a minor inconvenience; they're a major player in the world of workplace wellness.

Mental Health First Aiders

It has been two years since Opencast introduced mental health first aiders (MHFA) into the business. As we reflect, we can see just how much we have learned during this time, but also how this initiative has had a positive influence on how we support mental health at Opencast.

At Opencast, we're all about empowering people – it's one of our core values. So, when it came to supporting mental health, introducing MHFA was a no-brainer.

Our team of MHFA includes people from all parts of the business, including our leadership team, practice leads, consultants – and our team of people experience partners (PEEPs) who work closely with Opencast consultants every day. As a people experience partner, and someone who people turn to for support, I was excited to be part of the MHFA training.

We teamed up with MHFA England for a two-day course in mental health first aid. Now, we have a team of MHFA ready to lend a helping hand whenever they are needed. And that's just the beginning.

Other ways we are supporting mental health at Opencast include:

Supporting mental health

Other ways we are supporting mental health at Opencast include:

Sharing information:

We've got accessible information on our internal Intranet, making it easy to find all the ways Opencast can support when it comes to well-being at work. Whether it's pointing you to our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) scheme or connecting you with partners like Peaceful Minds. There are resources from Mental Health First Aid England, as well as, including who our First Aiders are and how to reach out to them.

Groups and communities:

New communities are popping up all over Teams channels, including our Parent Support Network and ‘Neurodiversity Natter’ channels where people reach out for support and advice. And now, we are excited about our new Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). These are spaces where people with shared identities or backgrounds can come together to build a diverse, inclusive and supportive workplace. The ERGs we have are: LGBTQIA, nonbinary & genderqueer folks, Women in Digital and EmbRace (promoting and celebrating multi-ethnicity)

Space:

At our Newcastle HQ we have a retreat room dedicated as a safe space for people who need some time to themselves or a calm and private place to chat with someone. The people experience team has a coffee and cake budget that can be used when a consultant wants to meet for a 1-1 away from a work setting.

Quarterly engagement survey:

We run a quarterly company engagement survey of all of our people, and within this we ask about people's wellbeing at work, and if they feel they have good physical and mental health while working for Opencast. With this we can track how people are feeling within the business and where we can work to improve.

Protecting our mental health first aiders:

Opencast recognises the importance of providing support for those who are part of the MHFA team as this can be a difficult role in itself. We have a MHFA channel on Teams where we can get together to support, talk and listen to each other. If at any time our MHFA feel like they need to take a step back from the role, they are supported in doing this.

The ALGEE method

As a People Experience Partner, I work very closely with Opencast’s consultants. I support consultants with pastoral care, and wellbeing at work is a big part of that. The MHFA training has been a game changer for me. Now, I can spot the signs of someone who may be struggling with their mental health and feel confident that I can have conversations about their mental health and support them. This, as we learned through our training, doesn’t mean having all the answers, but following the ‘ALGEE’ method can help:

A: Approach assess and assist with any crisis – assess the risk of suicide or harm and look for signs of trauma and high anxiety.

L: Listen to the person non-judgmentally.

G: Give the person reassurance, support and information.

E: Encourage the person to seek appropriate professional help.

E: Encourage the person to seek self-help and other support strategies.

Here's what some of Opencast’s MHFA-certified people have to say about how their work as an MHFA has helped them at Opencast:

Being a mental health first aider has given me a unique perspective as an Agile Delivery Manager. Just as I help teams navigate through complex projects, I now also understand the importance of navigating through mental health challenges. It's about creating a safe, supportive environment where everyone can thrive, both professionally and personally.
I'd say that the MHFA training has given me the confidence to approach either Opencast or client colleagues if I am concerned that they may be struggling.
The MHFA has given me so much more confidence in having conversations about mental health and the reassurance that I don't need to know all the answers, but I can signpost people to where they might find them.

Making mental health a priority

There are many positive reasons to make mental health and wellbeing a priority in your organisation. Supporting and reducing mental health issues within the workplace isn't just a feel-good initiative that has a positive impact on the people in your organisation. It's also good for business.

As Redline Group tells us, workers who feel supported with their mental health are 26% less likely to report symptoms, less likely to underperform or miss work, more likely to stay at their company, and report more positive views of the company and leadership, including trusting the company and feeling proud to work there.

Mental health an area where we are always learning and growing. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for people or business.

First published: 13 May 2024

Authors

Louise Barker

People Experience Partner

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