Debbie Francis: How can benefits support a suicide prevention campaign?

debbie francis

Ford of Britain’s journey to implement a mental health strategy started in early 2017 over a cup of coffee, when a colleague and I discussed our personal experiences and how mental ill-health touches so many of us, in so many different ways. It is an issue we cannot afford to ignore, and yet, for so many, it is difficult to talk about.

Ford already had a strategy around resilience and stress management, but we wanted to ensure that our employees feel able to talk openly, without the fear of stigma or isolation.

Initially, we conducted internal awareness sessions, with local diversity councils and employee resource groups; we also presented to employees in Town Hall meetings and individual team learning weeks, focusing on the importance of understanding good mental health and being able to bring their best selves to work.

In 2018, every location across Ford of Britain signed its own Time to Change employee pledge, and the organisation engaged an external subject matter expert to help broaden its existing training strategy.

Partnering with Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, Ford of Britain implemented a half-day awareness course, together with a one-day line manager training initiative, to enable staff to build their own confidence to step in, reassure and support another employee in the event of a mental health emergency.

Through 2019, the aim is to have trained mental health first aiders across all UK operations.

Combined with national mental health awareness campaigns, such as ‘Elephant in the Transit’, we hope to transform our employee experience. In addition, our employee resource groups are committed to building an inclusive sense of community, and our diversity committees work together to offer relevant programmes and learning opportunities.

The organisation’s educational assistance programme (EDAP), a joint Ford Motor Company and union initiative, encourages staff to take part in mindfulness courses, exercise classes, healthy cooking sessions and many more. The EDAP also provides a free and independent employee assistance programme (EAP).

We recognise that our industry is going through significant change at a fast pace, which can lead to employees feeling uncertain. Ford is not immune to this, so as we start to become an agile team that thrives on trust and shared accountability, we want to enable our employees to learn and grow together.

When it comes to mental health and suicide prevention, I would encourage everyone to start their journey by raising awareness and training employees to recognise the signs.

Debbie Francis is Britain HR manager at Ford