Councillors praise pioneering mental health programme for employees

A ground-breaking Aberdeen City Council plan aimed at addressing mental ill-health stigmas and helping employees experiencing mental health difficulties came in for praise from councillors today (Monday 3 February).

The Staff Governance Committee was updated on progress with the Employee Mental Health Plan which was approved by councillors in January last year.

A focal point of the plan is the Mental Health First Aid Network which has so far seen 40 council employees successfully trained as volunteer Mental Health First Aiders and help colleagues experiencing problems via a completely confidential process.

Around 90 First Aiders are expected be trained by the end of the financial year while 543 staff have also been trained in mental health awareness.

The Mental Health First Aid training is delivered by NESCOL and has received support from the trades unions representing council staff.

Councillor Claire Imrie, Aberdeen City Council’s mental health spokeswoman, said: “I recently completed my own Mental Health First Aid training with Omniscient Safety Innovations and I know how important such training is.

“The Mental Health ealth H First Aid Network is an innovative employee-led approach on a really important issue. The mental health and well-being of our staff is of the highest importance to us and the take up among employees as First Aiders across the city in the last year has been nothing short of fantastic.

“With confidential peer interventions, we are able to identify potential mental health issues at an early stage and help prevent problems from worsening.

“The process is completely anonymised and discretionary, so those seeking help are assured of privacy while also having the safety net of more formal interventions if required”.

Committee Convener, Councillor Yvonne Allan, said: “The feedback from the first year of our Employee Mental Health Action Plan has been tremendous and my thanks goes out to the officers who have worked so hard in devising and implementing it.

“In addition to the First Aiders programme, we offer staff face-to-face and e-learning on mental health awareness and we also had our inaugural Mental Health Awareness Week in October which covered a wide range of related topics and has helped create a culture where our people feel comfortable in discussing these issues”.

Having proved so successful in its first year, the plan is to be extended in 2020 to include data-led interventions, further Mental Health First Aid training and the rollout of a peer-support network as well as an increase in managers trained in awareness raising and a further Mental Health Awareness Week in October.