Mental Health Awareness Week: Introducing Checkmate’s Mental Health Aiders

Mental Health Awareness Week: Introducing Checkmate’s Mental Health Aiders

This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, running from May 13th to 19th, 2024. This time serves as a crucial platform to raise awareness of mental health issues and the resources available for support. It’s a chance for us all to take a step back, reflect on our own mental wellbeing, and consider how we can create a more supportive environment for those around us.

The theme for 2024 is “Movement: Moving more for our mental health.” This theme emphasises the positive impact physical activity can have on our mental state. Whether it’s a walk on your lunch break, a trip to the gym after work, or simply incorporating some stretches into your daily routine, ‘movement’ encourages us to find ways to get our bodies moving, ultimately boosting our overall mental well-being.

Statistics from Mind reveal that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. While these figures encompass the country as a whole, statistics for those working in Manufacturing indicate a much larger problem:

Manufacturing in particular is ranked in the bottom 10% of industries for well-being, with only 15% of businesses assessing risks to mental health.

Starting Conversations around Mental Health in the Manufacturing Industry

At Checkmate, we’re proud to say that we take action in prioritising the mental well-being of our team members and ensuring everyone feels comfortable seeking support. That’s why we’ve taken a proactive approach. We have established a Mental Health Aider programme here at Checkmate, to help break the stigma of talking about mental health in our male-dominated workplace. Our Mental Health Aiders are trained volunteers who offer confidential peer support to colleagues experiencing mental health issues.

In this article, we’ll be introducing you to Checkmate’s two Mental Health Aiders, Ashley Wheeler and Katelyn Okun. We’ll be talking to them about their roles, their motivations for becoming Mental Health Aiders, and the ways they hope to support their colleagues. We believe their stories will be both informative and inspiring, demonstrating the positive impact a supportive workplace culture can have on mental health!

Ashley Wheeler: Factory Operative and Mental Health Aider, two years with Checkmate Flexible Engineering.

Katelyn Okun: Factory Operative and Mental Health Aider, six years with Checkmate Flexible Engineering.

What led you to volunteer for the role of Mental Health Aider?

Ashley: Having gone through my own mental health journey, I felt it would be beneficial to learn more about mental health. I wanted to be able to help my work colleagues in their time of need, when needed.

Katelyn: Mental illness has been no stranger in my life. My family and I have had our own experiences so learning more about how I can help, if needed, with my colleagues was an easy decision.

What types of workshops did you do in training? What were the key things you learned that influence the way you carry out this role?

Ashley & Katelyn: We both completed St Johns’ Ambulance Mental Health Workplace: First Aider course.

This two-day mental health first aid course qualifies delegates as Mental Health First Aiders. Delegates will be awarded the FutureQuals Level 3 Award in Mental Health: Workplace First Aider qualification, which will equip them with the knowledge to identify those who require mental health support and the confidence to offer assistance when required.

The 2-day course was eye-opening, teaching us a variety of key topics, including;

  • The wide range of mental health illnesses
  • What to do in a mental health crisis
  • The idea that ‘the solution is in them’, and we just guide them to help if we can
  • The importance of listening
  • The importance of confidentiality
  • The importance of empathy

We were also taught practical skills to help spot triggers and signs of mental illness, as well as how to perform some physical first aid as part of our response to mental illness. All together, it was a really thorough course and something we would definitely urge other businesses and mental health aiders to take part in.

What affects have there been of you taking this role? What’s the difference within the team?

Ashley & Katelyn: We’ve definitely seen a change in the team since the both of us took the course and took on this new role. We have instilled a level of confidence within our team, so that they feel like they can approach us at any time. We are planning team building days in the hope to help boost morale and build relationships within the business.

Why do you think this is an important topic to discuss within your working sector?

Ashley & Katelyn: It’s no secret that there are factors that influence people’s mental health at work, and that’s something that we need to be especially aware of in our industry. A study of UK manufacturing workers found that:

  • Nearly one in four workers felt that their work environment negatively impacted their mental health
  • The industry has seen a 39% increase in mental health cases in the past three years
  • The biggest cause of mental health issues in men’s lives are work (32%)
  • More than 93% of women say they have experienced mental health issues as a result of poor work-life balance

We have a diverse workforce at Checkmate, so making sure we were equipped to deal with the vast array of people in our team was crucial, and showed us just how important what we’re doing under these new roles is. There can be a lot of pressure in our industry, which could lead to feelings of anxiety and depression; it was really important to us that we helped our team combat these feelings in any way we could.

The field of engineering can be demanding and stressful, making mental health awareness even more crucial. Mental Health Awareness Week spurs ongoing conversations about mental well-being within the workplace; by prioritising movement and creating a culture of open communication, Checkmate is proud to be fostering a supportive environment where employees feel empowered to take care of their mental health.

For more information about the topics covered in this article, visit Mind. For support and help with mental health struggles, you can find support lines here.