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Mental Health Awareness Week: Breaking down barriers at Thames Water

Monday 10th May 2021 08:57

A green logo saying mental health awareness week

Thames Water is breaking down mental health in the workplace barriers through its award-winning ‘Time to Talk’ strategy, as the company starts a series of events to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.

Charley Keegan works as a compliance manager for Thames Water’s operational projects, logistics and incident management team and trained as a mental health first aider in 2019. 

Charley said: “After my own experiences with my mental health, I have an understanding how people might be feeling a certain way and need to reach out for help. Having a conversation with someone who is there to listen can really help relieve the pressure, stress or feelings they might be dealing with. Having mental health first aiders in the workplace is a really important way for people to access this support and we can signpost colleagues to further mental health services should they need it.”

Thames Water launched its mental health first aid training in 2017, as part of its strategy to put mental health on an equal footing with physical health. The company also provides mental health awareness training and regularly signposts care services and support through its internal employee communications.

Within three years, the company has trained 600 mental health first aiders with around 500 currently working across the water and wastewater business.

Before the pandemic, Thames Water was recording an average of 30 employee contacts a month with its mental health first aiders. The company has also seen sickness absences levels for work-related stress fall since starting its employee mental health strategy.

Charley said: “As mental health first aiders, we’re very visible in the company and wear green lanyards, so people know its ok to talk to us. Taking care of our mental health affects us all whether we’re at work or at home, that’s why it’s important we all feel empowered to talk about mental health in the workplace.” 

"We all feel empowered to talk about mental health in the workplace."

Charley has shared her experiences as Thames Water gears up for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from May 10 – 16.

The theme for this year is ‘nature’. Research by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust suggests just 10 minutes in urban wetlands was enough to record positive changes to wellbeing and that the benefits are likely to be greater for those who consider themselves more stressed.

Thames Water is hosting a learning event for its employees with Jane Cattermole, founder and director of The Mainly Mental Health Company, which will explore how the global pandemic may have affected brain functioning and the impact on our mental health.

Staff will also hear from colleagues around the business about their personal mental health experiences and will be signposted to mental health courses and tips and tricks to help them connect with nature.

Aimee Cain, head of occupational health and wellbeing, said: “At Thames Water, we recognise why talking about our mental health at work should be as normal as possible. Not only does it benefit our business but crucially it helps our colleagues who need support and the service we provide our customers. 

“Training mental health first aiders is an important way to break down those barriers. It’s also vital you have a wider plan in place to remove the stigma about talking about mental health and to change the workplace culture so mental health and physical health are treated equally.”

Find out more about mental health first aid training.