Mirroring some of the plans being made by the Agents Together foundation, which launched earlier this month, Bellway Homes is helping to break the stigma of mental health problems during these unsettling times by providing support and specialist training to its staff.
The Yorkshire division of the national homebuilder introduced a virtual half-day mental health course in March.
Open to all staff members in the region, it was run four times during full lockdown; with attendees coming from the company’s four operating departments – construction, sales, technical and administration.
The course has also been attended by several directors, highlighting the company’s appetite for supporting mental health at every level.
The half day lockdown course was born out of a two-day course, which Bellway developed alongside industry charity, The Lighthouse Charity, in 2019.
The longer version of the course has been attended by over 100 Bellway employees across the UK since its launch last Spring.
Melanie Smith, Bellway Yorkshire’s sales director, said: “As a company, Bellway is very progressive when it comes to mental health care, and the provision of the first aid courses has been warmly received by everyone.”
“As lockdown loomed earlier in the year there was a real concern that the training would have to be put on hold.
“We are though very lucky to live in such a digital world, meaning we were able to find a way to continue providing these vital courses at a time when the need for them is sadly greater than ever.”
Bellway’s two-day course covers general mental health through to psychosis, suicide prevention and crisis first aid; whereas the condensed half-day course is more general and looks at recognising warning signs from friends, family and colleagues, while also dealing with and breaking the stigma surrounding mental health problems.
Both courses provide tips for understanding and supporting colleagues who are struggling with their wellbeing; as well as how employees can manage their own stress and anxiety in the workplace.
The Bellway courses were developed by a team of HR and health and safety managers, working in conjunction with The Lighthouse Charity.
Claire Birkhead, Bellway’s regional health and safety manager, said: “It’s estimated that a quarter of people in the UK experience mental health issues every year.
“This is a frightening statistic, and one that needs to be recognised and properly addressed by both business and the construction sectors.”
“Looking back to 2019, we were concerned that Bellway didn’t have adequate representation and support regarding mental health support for staff.
“What’s been achieved since then, including my training and qualification as a mental health first aid trainer, goes to show what can be achieved when mental health is given the attention it desperately needs.”
In addition to its mental health first aid courses, Bellway also undertook wellbeing activity with all furloughed staff throughout lockdown.
“This entailed regular wellbeing email briefings, which contained support and advice, as well as tips on eating healthily, exercising and how to maintain a regular routine despite not being at work
“If lockdown has shown anything, it’s that nobody is immune to mental health issues,” concluded Melanie.
“We must continue working together to break the stigma that still surrounds it; and be in a position to recognise the need for support, and how to go about providing it.
“We look forward to continuing our mental health training at Bellway.”