SEVERAL businesses in the town have come together in a bid to improve mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Supported by St Helens Council, the ‘St Helens Time to Change Business Group’ is open to companies that are just starting to embed mental health in their workplaces and sees good practice shared between some of the borough’s biggest businesses and organisation for the benefit of more than 2,500 employees.

READ MORE > Mental health still a 'taboo subject' in many workplaces

Thirteen companies to date have joined the group, all of which have signed - or are in the process of signing - a ‘Time to Change pledge’ to demonstrate their commitment to change how they think and act about mental health in the workplace and make sure that employees who are facing these problems feel supported.

Manufacturing company Knauf Insulation on Stafford Road - which signed the Time to Change pledge on World Mental Health Awareness Day in October last year – recently opened its doors to host the first of the quarterly St Helens Time to Change Business Group’ networking sessions, where representatives from all sorts of industries - from child day care to transport - sat round a table to share innovative ideas on how to boost morale at work.

Lisa Flaherty, HR director at Knauf, which is signed up to St Helens Council’s Ambassadors scheme to help attract investment into the borough, said: “Since signing the Time to Change pledge, we’ve been running lots of ongoing activities, including training our first-line managers on managing good mental health in the workplace and have recruited employee champions across all areas of the business who act as a point of contact for staff wanting to talk about any issues they may have.

“Moving forward, we will continue to progress through these activities, encouraging colleagues to use all the resources available to them – and our ultimate aim is to reduce the stigma around mental health and we really want people to be open and to talk to one another about any problems they may be having.”

Co-Op Distribution Centre at Lea Green; Longworth Building Services Ltd based at Haydock Industrial Estate; Portico Nursery Group and food manufacturers, FoodPack, are other businesses involved with the group that are making waves when it comes to addressing mental health among the workforce.

St Helens Star:

The Co-Op Distribution Centre signed the Time To Change pledge last autumn. Pictured are Cllr Andy Bowden (right), with operations manager, Jay Eassom (left) and transport manager, Nigel Clark (centre)

Through St Helens Council’s business liaison officer, Sue Waller, the Co-op have been able to access health services on site including smoke free, physical activity plan, blood pressure checks and the use of the Wellpoint Kiosk – and have recruited mental health first aiders provided through Manchester College.

Meanwhile, since signing its pledge during Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2018, 10 members of staff - including members of the board - at Longworth have signed up as mental health champions, with many going on to gain qualifications - while a simple ‘what p***** you off box’ has gone down well with staff since being introduced in the canteen.

Georgia Hurst, engagement officer for Co-Op, added: “A priority of ours at Co-op Lea Green Distribution Centre is to actively promote health and wellbeing to our colleagues.

"The support of Sue and the utilisation of the many great services the council has to offer has been the key to our continued success in landing key messages particularly around mental health.”

Meanwhile, Longworth’s safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) manager, Melissa Fazackerley, said: “We invest in looking after the health and safety of our employees and mental health is a valuable part of that investment.

“I can confidently say we are well on our way to fighting the stigma and becoming an understanding and supportive employer. “

Praising the companies for coming together to take a stand on the stigma attached to mental health and wellbeing, Sue Waller said: “Mental health is an issue businesses can’t afford to ignore so I’m delighted to see many of the borough’s leading organisations stand up and realise how precious health and wellbeing is by uniting and forming the St Helens Time to Change Business Group’ to help create a healthier and happier workplace for those involved.”

St Helens Council’s incoming portfolio holder for public health, Cllr Anthony Burns, said: “It’s a shame that very few workers tend to open up to their managers or colleagues about how they’re feeling, such is the stigma surrounding mental health. 

“We all need to take on this responsibility. If you see someone who is maybe going through a tough time, sometimes just to ask if everything is okay may help more than you know."

In St Helens, organisations can demonstrate their commitment to wellbeing in the workforce through a funded resource providing advice and practical support available, from benchmarking to free health checks.