Jason Cotterrell, Managing Director, Exterion Media
Started MHFA Training
Staff trained so far
Exterion Media is Europe’s largest privately owned Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising business, working with a global portfolio of partners, delivering advertising campaigns in the UK and abroad for some of the world’s biggest brands. Recognising the importance of supporting the mental health of its 400-strong UK workforce, the organisation has placed significant emphasis on providing Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training as part of its Strategic Labour Needs and Training (SLNT) programme.
2017 was Exterion Media's ‘year of focus’ on mental health, meaning that workplace wellbeing initiatives, events and training were given top priority. The roll-out of Mental Health Aware Half Day courses for staff in branches in London and Manchester were a central part of this focus. In 2018 they kept this momentum going by promoting awareness, understanding and acceptance of mental health through continued regular training and communication. As a result, Exterion Media has now trained 85% of its entire workforce across the UK.
The advertising industry and its sales-oriented environment can at times engender a high pressure working culture. Although long working hours are not expected, sub-cultures of working late can often pervade, despite agile working policies and investment in training. For example in the OOH industry, outside of the office, fatigue and stress can sometimes affect multimedia technicians - who are responsible for the physical placement of posters and advertising hoardings, and who often work late shifts. Robust mental health training has therefore become an integral part of Exterion Media's developing strategy to support the wellbeing of its workforce and the continued sustainability of the business as a whole.
Discussing the reasons for introducing MHFA training, Employee Relations Manager, Exterion Media, Christopher Temmink, explains: “Over the past five years, we’ve noticed an increase in cases of short-term sickness absence due to mental ill health. We recognised that line managers may be unsure as to how best to manage this and how to offer support. Therefore, we advertised an MHFA course for 25 people on ‘Blue Monday’ in January 2017. With over 140 employees applying to participate, it was clear that a wider programme of mental health training was needed.”
“We were never close-minded about mental health, but we simply didn’t know where to start. MHFA courses have given us ‘permission’ to talk.”
Mental Health Aware Half Day courses were identified as an accessible way for the organisation to begin raising and instilling mental health awareness and support skills among employees.
Explaining the impact of the training, Christopher says: “Our programme of mental health training has certainly helped to bring about a culture change within Exterion Media. We’ve received some really positive feedback about the part Mental Health Aware Half Day courses have played in this in our ‘Culture and Values’ survey - with people now more likely to talk about mental health openly and come forward to talk to our HR team, who have all attended the MHFA Two Day course and as such are all trained as Mental Health First Aiders. The number of staff accessing our employee assistance programme (EAP) has also increased, suggesting that more people are accessing further support when they need it, which is really encouraging to see.”
"Continually highlighting the support channels for us is key - we advertise our own EAP, and the NABS helpline to support employee’s in getting quick, independent help and support. Internally we have laptop stickers, MHFA lanyards and posters, we wear the Lord Mayor's green ribbon and also continue to push out information leaflets across the business. We continue to engage our experienced and engaging trainer Steve Metcalf from Robustmind Mental Fitness. He runs monthly courses for external delegates using our office space enabling us to utilise two places for EM staff each month – they are always used."
With 382 staff now trained across the business, including 36 employees having gone through the ASIST course from LivingWorks Education, all of the courses advertised are regularly oversubscribed. Christopher and his team now plan to step up their evaluation of the training and continue promoting their network of MHFAiders throughout the organisation. He comments: "National Stress Awareness Day in November will see the launch of a new survey to obtain additional feedback on our training programme which will help us further refine and tailor our strategy. Promoting our MHFAiders is an important component of this – at Exterion Media we make sure to display the names of those trained next to lists of physical first aiders in all our offices so our employees know that a supportive conversation is always close at hand. We now look forward to continuing to run MHFA training and other mental health initiatives around national awareness events including National Suicide Prevention Day and Mental Health Awareness Week."