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Employers often say that their staff are their greatest asset; here at the Environment Agency we think so, too. We want our people to be well and happy – and that’s why we have been working so hard to look after the health of our people. All of us have mental health in the same way as we all have physical health and our mental health changes over time in the same way as our physical health does.
As well as the standard procedures that any large organisation has, we have done two main things to address mental health in at the Environment Agency: our Healthy Minds programme and our staff-led network.
Healthy Minds is an awareness-raising and training programme for both individuals and line managers that teaches people how to spot the signs of emotional distress as well as how to access support. It creates a positive, safe environment to help staff break down any barriers and talk without fear of stigma.
Our employee-led mental health network is remarkable in that it is entirely run by staff, for staff. It offers a safe space where people can talk honestly about mental health issues. The network carries out a phenomenal amount of work, offering webinars, mindfulness training and local discussions. It lets people share their personal stories on our staff intranet – helping further remove misconceptions and stigma.
Through the group, our staff can also get assistance from trained wellbeing advisors – sometimes referred to as mental health first aiders – who can offer an empathetic ear and guide them to other useful resources. Plus, line managers can also get peer support through the network, enabling them to understand and support their team members’ individual needs.
The network now has more than 600 members and is growing daily. Roughly a third of all our line managers have undertaken Healthy Minds programme. And some of our training webinars have seen so much interest, the system has been overwhelmed!