With this month being Stress Awareness Month and May being the annual Mental Health Awareness Month, Trade Union Health & Safety Reps (USR) and their colleagues who are Mental health First Aiders spend much of their time on these workplace issues by supporting, informing and pointing those needing further help to various sources of help.
One such source which many forget is a good employer's support network for those needing help.
Colin Johnstone, a Prospect Union safety rep and a member of the North West BT Unions Health & Safety Co-ord is an active member of BT's Peer to Peer Network which aims to support BT employees who are going through problems which are having a negative affect on their mental health.
He has personal experience of the mental health support network, and the help it gives to those who may need just a friendly non-judgemental conversation with a work colleague from the Network, or a bit more support in addressing their issues.
Of course, the advantage of the BT Peer To Peer network is that there is common knowledge of some of the workplace pressures that may have a negative affect on colleague's mental health. In speaking with a work colleague they can be pointed to sources of help and support from the employer.
It may be as simple as giving the individual support in speaking out and helping them address their issues.
Colin told Unionsafety that BT is doing a really good job via the Peer To Peer Network:
"I am member of the network and used the services as well. It is just non-union based but BT is held up as an example for how other companies can make life better when problems occur."
BT's Peer To Peer network started out in 2017 as a result of a group of people who saw a gap in the support the company was providing in supporting mental health of it's employees.
The Network does not counsel - the volunteers are not qualified to do that and it is not permitted. They listen empathetically, don’t judge, and signpost to areas of support such as employee assistance, the NHS and BT-approved organisations.
USRs and Mental Health First Aiders from the CWU no doubt work parallel with these volunteers. Whilst this is not a Trade Union based initiative, it does provide additional resources within BT which can be drawn upon by work colleagues in places within the Company where the Union does not have Mental Health First Aiders.
You can read more about the Network on BT's website from Mark Ogden, the current Chair of the Network here, or take a look at the PowerPoint presentation on BT's Peer To Peer Network available from the Unionsafety E-Library in the category of 'Mental Health'.