Prioritising Positive Mental Health in the Public Sector
June 23rd is Public Services Day, the internationally recognised day to celebrate and show our appreciation for the hard work and sacrifice of those working in the public sector. It gives us all the opportunity to stop and reflect on the need to prioritise positive mental health in the public sector.
In our first blog post to mark this occasion (Positive Mental Health in the Public Sector – more than a ‘nice to have’) we explored the shortfall in mental health support for those working in public services and why it is so important for the public sector to enable positive mental health for employees.
In this follow up blog, we wanted to showcase one of our clients, Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) and Peterborough City Council (PCC), who have shown an unwavering commitment to prioritising positive mental health and who, in our opinion, are a great example of good practice.
Investing in People
Back in 2019, recognising the impact of compromised mental health on the wellbeing, and performance of their people, the senior management team chose to invest in mental health consultancy and training, and despite the sudden and significant challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic brought at the start of 2020, both councils have managed to maintain that commitment.
Here we highlight some of the initiatives that have been on offer over the last year:
- Wellbeing group
The Council has a wellbeing group which brings together representatives from public health & human resources, and expertise from across the organisation. The group runs a monthly wellbeing hour, coordinates the organisations mental health first aiders, produces a weekly wellbeing blog and manages relationships with various support services.
- Wellbeing hour
A monthly wellbeing hour was launched in September 2020 to support staff, many of whom were working from home, during the pandemic. To date, nine online sessions have been delivered by guest speakers from Mental Health in the workplace, MIND, and more.
Topics are chosen in response to staff requests, current issues in the media and a calendar of celebratory events/days/months. The most popular sessions have seen attendance from 200+ staff, who have joined to hear about anxiety, personal safety, alcohol, sleep and physical wellbeing to name a few.
Feedback from the wellbeing hour has been very positive.
One attendee at the personal safety session said: “I have told my non-Council friends about the tips I have learned” and another at the sleep session said “There are nuggets to take away which I can use/help others – signalling that the content is both worthwhile and far-reaching.
- Wellbeing portal
The Council’s intranet hosts a content rich and thought provoking wellbeing portal on their intranet, where people can seek information about emergency support, book onto the wellbeing hours, read the blog and explore available training sessions.
This month the Council will be launching a Microsoft teams channel – a dedicated discussion forum for wellbeing matters where people will be welcome to share thoughts, suggestions and reviews about the Council’s approach to wellbeing support.
- Wellbeing blog
The wellbeing group produce a weekly blog packed full of useful content, in response to new services, seasonal trends and current news. It signposts to further resources to get help and relevant training courses. Recent topics have included ‘Meet your mental health first aiders’, ‘Managing feelings of anxiety as lockdown eases’ and ‘Gardening: why it’s good for you physical and mental wellbeing’. Blog posts regularly receive more than 200-400+ views.
- Engagement survey
In November 2020, the Council ran an engagement survey of their people asking what can be done to better support health and wellbeing within the organisation. More than 1,000 staff responded giving valuable insight to current wellbeing across the organisation. A review of results and action plan has been published on the intranet and circulated to the wider organisation.
- Mental health first aiders
The Council has mental health first aiders on hand to help anyone struggling with their mental health. There are 25 mental health first aiders across 16 teams at the Council, who are trained to spot, engage and support someone who is suffering from poor mental health, on a first aid basis. They can have an initial conversation and offer early support through non-judgemental listening and guidance, then sign post them to further support if needed.
- Employee Assistance Programme
All employees have access to an Employee Assistance Programme, provided by Health Assured which offers confidential advice 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Services include counselling, bereavement, legal, financial and medical support.
A recent annual report from the provider showed that 90% of the calls were for counselling and 10% were seeking other advice, including legal advice. Anxiety was the most common reason for counselling related calls and the highest number were made during the months where new lockdown announcements were made. Having accessed counselling via the programme, a score on measures for depression and anxiety improved by c.47%.
The service is complimented by an app, offering staff access to an instant messaging function, mini health checks and new breathing techniques to help with anxiety.
Mental health in the Workplace workshops
The following workshops are available every month through us, Mental Health In The Workplace:
- Promoting Mental Wellbeing – Mental Health Awareness Training
All employees are encouraged to attend a 2 hour online workshop delivered by Mental health in the workplace. The session is designed to help people better manage their own mental health and cope effectively with daily challenges. It explores the neuroscience of stress, how to spot the triggers, and develop coping mechanisms.
- Mental Health Conversations for Managers
Managers are invited to attend a 90-minute follow-on workshop, to help them maintain positive wellbeing in their team and support team members that are struggling.
This session supports our managing mental health workshop, providing a refresher of how mental health becomes compromised, the impact on life and work as well as some specific information around the anxiety caused specifically due to Covid-19 and the impact of that on the brain, wellbeing and performance.
This workshop provides advice on approaching conversations around mental health, equipping managers with the knowledge, tools and confidence to better support their people to cope more effectively with modern day challenges, both at home and at work.
With thanks to Jennifer Wagstaff, Senior Internal Communications Office at CCC, for collaborating with us on this article.
How are you prioritising positive mental health in the public sector?
Find out if your organiation is promoting positive wellbing in the workplace by taking our quick Mental Health At Work Quiz
This short quiz will take you through the six areas of ‘work design’ that highlight the primary sources of stress at work that, when not managed well, are associated with poor mental health and can lead to increased absenteeism and presenteeism, resulting in reduced creativity, productivity and results.