EXCLUSIVE: Galliard Homes promotes importance of mental health first aiders

Employee Benefits Live 2021: Not only are an organisation’s mental health first aiders (MHFAs) key to assisting staff, but it is important to look after the MHFAs themselves to avoid burnout, suggested Victoria Anthony, group human resources director of Galliard Homes.

Taking part in a panel discussion titled ‘Creating and sustaining emotionally resilient workforces’ with Claire Timmins, human resources director at Ipsos Mori, on the second day of Employee Benefits Live 2021 at London’s ExCel, Anthony discussed how Galliard Homes has introduced MHFAs by asking for volunteers from all backgrounds to deal with a variety of challenges.

“We have a 350-strong workforce and 30 to 40 MHFAs within this. They wear different coloured high-vis jackets so other employees know who to talk to if they’re on a building site. We’ve also set up special spaces and rooms for people to go to talk, if they do not want others to know they are talking to one,” she said.

Timmins explained that Ipsos Mori has double the amount of MHFAs that Galliard Home has, who are also volunteers across different locations, roles and diversity groups.

“We presented the idea of MHFAs as the right thing to do before receiving funding for the training. Staff had to tell us why they wanted to become one and we regularly check in with them to see how it’s going and to find out what themes or issues are coming up so we can start to address them before they become more serious problems,” she said.

Regarding training and support for MHFAs, Anthony commented that Galliard Homes provides regular half-day meetings for MHFAs to allow them to offload and receive top-up training on particular areas.

“We support them as a group to ensure they avoid burnout from difficult conversations they may have had. We also have a smiley face button on our portal for all staff to use when they log on in order to ask them how they’re doing that day, which is really key to find out about their wellbeing,” she said.

Timmins added that in the past her organisation’s line managers have received training from the charity Mind, and that this is something they will be revisiting in the future.

“One hundred or so managers will get the training and we have had good engagement from them on this. We also enable access to Bupa’s private healthcare services for employees, if it is needed. You don’t have to be an expert on mental health to offer support, you just need to know where to point staff on to, if necessary,” she said.