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South: IT firm aims to break stigma of mental health issues

By Jo Whittle
28 June 2018

Staff at Taylor Made Computer Solutions have undergone ‘eye-opening’ awareness training as the IT firm continues to combat stigma around mental health.

Strengthening its commitment to employee wellbeing, the Hampshire IT firm hosted training sessions with the help of its local NHS occupational health team this month.

HR manager Jonathan Bailey plans to train up a handful of staff who will be appointed as mental health first aiders. Each volunteer will be trained in spotting symptoms and providing support.

Bailey said: ‘The response we have received has been excellent. Staff described the training day as both ‘eye opening’ and ‘hard hitting’. It isn’t an easy subject to deal with, but they came out of it with some fantastic skills and a greater appreciation.’The sessions were attended by over 20 employees from different levels of the business. Health practitioners trained staff on how to recognise key symptoms and how to start those difficult conversations with colleagues.

Bailey said: “While some companies are moving in the right direction, there is still a stigma around mental health in business. I came into Taylor Made just a few months ago and set mental health as a top priority. The directors took my idea and ran with it immediately, which is so refreshing.”

While Bailey wants the first aiders to provide skilled support, he isn’t looking to launch a team of councillors. He added: “Mental health issues have a huge impact on employee absence and sickness rates. Unfortunately, if someone is suffering with the symptoms of depression for example, a colleague might look over and think they’re simply slacking off or not pulling their weight.

“We need to get people to look at this in a different way. We need to think: “What can we do to help this person? What’s actually going on here?”. Our first aiders won’t be councillors, they will be trained to spot symptoms, provide much-needed support at the first point of contact and point people in the right direction. They will be approachable and well-informed. Eventually, that attitude will filter through the entire business.”

The decision to appoint the first aiders comes after the company ran a number of initiatives for Mental Health Awareness Week.

Bake sales, running and walking competitions and various other fundraising activities saw the team scoop over £300 for Fareham-based charity, Moving On Project. The organisation offers free, confidential support to young people in Fareham and Gosport.

Bailey added: “It isn’t just about the week, it’s about 365 days of consideration for our staff and their mental and physical wellbeing.”

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