Council’s mental health interventions hailed as “vital” as employees prepare for workplace return

Aberdeen City Council’s innovative mental health interventions for staff were today (Monday 7 June) described as having “huge role to play” as office-based staff prepare for a post-lockdown return to the workplace.

The Council’s Staff Governance Committee were updated on the positive impact a programme of mental health wellbeing interventions, approved by the Council in February last year, have had especially since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since the pandemic officers, in collaboration with trade union colleagues, have undertaken mitigating actions recognising the potential for increased mental health concerns amongst employees during a period of increased stress and anxiety.

A range of support mechanisms have been devised including a 24-hours-a- day, seven-days-a-week, 365 days a year online and telephone counselling service to offset the suspension of face-to-face meetings; an innovative Mental Health First Aid Network comprising trained staff volunteers; training in mental health awareness; mental health champions; access and signposting to external specialists; online blogs and videos and participation in wider national health.

A leaflet was also distributed to all frontline staff without access to online technology, signposting them to the support available and contact details for the Mental Health First Aiders.

Committee Convener, Councillor Yvonne Allan, said: “Recent research indicates the effects of the pandemic and associated prevention measures such as the lockdowns and social distancing are likely to impact on some individuals for months or even years after the event.

“That is why it is vital, as we begin to return to the workplace in a post-pandemic world, that we continue with our programme of interventions to ensure that our staff receive the support they require.”

The Council’s mental health and wellbeing network was also praised by Councillor Claire Imrie during the national Mental Health Awareness Week early this month.

Interventions during the pandemic have included online campaigns and payslip alerts signposting staff to support mechanisms; a dedicated website information page and support phone line plus mental health and wellbeing blogs all underpinned by an employee consultation to determine the targeted and effective interventions.

Next steps for the programme include a physical communications campaign particularly for front line staff, continuing roll out of mental health first aiders and a new tranche of mental health awareness training.