It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (13th – 19th May) and we’re gearing up for a week of activity across our sites and offices to support the green ribbon campaign, sharing the message that mental health matters and that it’s ok not to be ok.
For us at Seddon, mental health awareness isn’t limited to just a week. Our journey really began in 2017, when Jordan Bibby, a 25-year-old painter and decorator, took his own life. Jordan was a much-loved son and friend; he was well liked and respected by his team, having started with the business as an apprentice at 16. Everyone he met remarked how happy he seemed, he was always cracking jokes and the last person they thought would ever take their own life.
Jordan’s passing hit hard, but it wasn’t the first time that a member of the team at Seddon had suffered with poor mental health. We’ve always worked to support our people when they asked for it, but Jordan didn’t ask for help – no-one even knew he was struggling.
According to research in 2018 from Mind, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime. For us in construction, figures are higher. In a 2017 survey of construction workers by Randstad, 34% said they had experienced a mental health condition in the last 12 months.
Mental health is still massively stigmatised, meaning that of those who suffer, many do so in silence like Jordan. We knew we had to do something to change this.
We spoke to our people – those who had suffered and who worked alongside them – and asked how we could help. It turned out that something as simple as asking someone if they are ok, could have a massive impact, by encouraging people to talk and ask for support. As a business, we can’t control what happens in someone’s personal life, but we can help shape their working life.
Celebrating Jordan’s Conversation
Working with registered charity, Mates in Mind, we launched Jordan’s Conversation in 2018. As part of the initiative, we give a “toolbox talk” to staff, a session that is designed to raise awareness of mental health across the company. We have also created a team of mental health first aiders, trained to recognise the signs that colleagues may be struggling and need help.
On Wednesday 15th May 2019, it will be a year to the day since we launched Jordan’s Conversation and we are making excellent progress. To date, we’ve delivered over 61 sessions to 328 employees and 125 subcontractors. There are two qualified mental health first aiders, as well as 10 ambassadors, with plans to train more.
Since Jordan’s Conversation, we’ve now signed up to the Time to Change pledge, a national initiative that works with schools, employers and communities. The aim is to get people to change the way they think and act about mental health, by removing the stigma and getting people to talk.
What’s more, we’ve engaged Aviva to provide our people with a free, totally confidential 24-hour helpline, where they can speak to trained counsellors and be signposted to further support. But we know that we need to do more, so we’ve decided to continue the conversation.
Continuing the conversation
On Wednesday (15th May) we are asking all our people, across four offices and more than 50 sites throughout the North West and Midlands, to Take 10 at 10 by having a cup of tea and a conversation with colleagues to get to know them a bit better. In an age where we delve into our phones more than we chat to workmates, we want everyone to have a chance to discuss areas of their lives that matter to them. Whether this is what they did at the weekend, family, friends or current hobbies, conversations like this help us get to know each other better, which is key to helping identify the early signs that someone is struggling.
And it’s not just our people: we’re reaching out to our clients and suppliers to Take 10 at 10 and encourage their own people to start a conversation also. We want to get as many people as possible talking about mental health, so if you want to join in just tweet @yourseddon with a picture yourself having a cuppa with a colleague using the hashtags:
Written by Peter Jackson, Managing Director at Seddon.