FoodPack and Culina Group as a whole, take the mental health of our employees extremely seriously. So much so we have trained ‘Mental Health First Aiders’ throughout the business covering every site in the network. These team members are critical for those who may be experiencing mental health issues or are in need of someone impartial to talk to with regards to their situation and get information and advise on the options they have available to them.

FoodPack’s own Sharon Winder is one of the team members on hand to help her fellow colleagues in their time of need. We sat down with Sharon who is a HR Business Partner based in St Helens to ask her some questions about what it means to her to be a Mental Health First Aider.

What is the role of a Mental Health First Aider?

The role is to provide support for anyone experiencing a Mental Health issue or emotional distress. This could range from having an initial conversation through to supporting the person to get appropriate help. As well as in a crisis, Mental Health First Aiders are invaluable in providing early intervention support for someone who may be developing a Mental Health issue. We are not here to take on the role of a psychiatrist or qualified therapist but to offer non-judgemental support, guidance and be there as someone who can listen.

What prompted you into becoming a Mental Health First Aider?

My role as a HR Business Partner, naturally involves dealing with people and their issues and so the role is intrinsically linked. Mental Health is something that is close to my heart, both through personal experience and family members. Being able to understand and help someone in a crisis is important to me. I strongly believe we all should give our Mental Health the same attention as we do to our physical health. I also feel it is important to play a part in breaking down the stigma and stereotypes attached to Mental Health issues and I will do what I can in ensuring this happens whether it’s with my friends and family or whether its in a professional capacity at work – creating an environment where people feel safe and supported is something we all need at some point in our lives.

How can we normalise conversations about Mental Health?

Because of the stigma attached, this isn’t always easy to do. However, the more I (we) can do to break down those barriers, the easier it will become to openly talk about what we struggle with or what we need help with. For example, in the workplace I regularly issue information, training sessions and display appropriate facts, figures and images that are aimed at making people think differently or prompt them to start a conversation – this needs to be done in a tasteful and sensitive manner otherwise it could have the potential for people to shy away from the topic. Simple things such as checking in on people and asking twice if they are okay, often helps open up channels of communication too. It’s important that we create a culture where it’s okay to talk about Mental Health.

What skills are needed to be an effective Mental Health First Aider?

The ability to listen, be discreet and patient, the ability to remain calm in a crisis situation, not to be judgemental, the ability to apply emotional intelligence and be able to pick up on when someone or something isn’t right AND not be afraid of asking difficult questions. Additionally, it is so important for any Mental Health First Aider to look after themselves so as not to become too overwhelmed; for me physical exercise especially running, is my stress buster!

What advice would you give anyone wanting to become a Mental Health First Aider?

If someone is genuinely passionate about helping people, then absolutely do it – there is no better feeling in the world when you can help someone. The training surrounding Mental Health is really informative and gives you a great insight into the different Mental Health conditions people struggle with. I have also just completed a Counselling Course which dovetails nicely with the Mental Health training and of course my role within the company as it allows me to strategically integrate well-being and is a key driver for productivity and maximising performance. It is so important for us all to raise awareness of Mental Health and for me, I will always be an advocate for employees and the business and I will always promote well-being and challenge any stigmas.

We post the contact details of each depot’s Mental Health First Aider on notice boards throughout our sites. As a business we are always looking to expand our employee support network to ensure staff can get the support they need, when they need it. We encourage any Culina Group staff who wish to become a Mental Health First Aider to please speak to their local representative.