Started offering training
Staff trained so far
At Thames Water mental health is considered just as important as physical health, if not more so. With over 5,000 permanent employees and a further 10,000 contractors, many of whom are working in high risk and physically demanding environments, Thames Water’s ‘Time to Talk’ mental health strategy places a continued focus on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England training is an integral part of this approach, which has seen an increase in referrals to the occupational health team and in turn resulted in an 80% reduction in work-related illness absence cases over the last five years.
Thanks to its holistic approach, Thames Water is leading the way in the utilities sector when it comes to dealing with mental health as an important workplace issue.
Karl Simons, Chief Health, Safety and Security Officer said: “Across the organisation, we were experiencing more occupational health referrals for stress, anxiety and depression than we were for physical illnesses. Many of our employees work shift patterns or are lone workers and the nature of the work can be in high risk, demanding environments, such as navigating confined entries into deep sewers. Therefore, we implemented a new ‘Time to Talk’ mental health strategy to ensure we cared for our employees’ mental health as well as their physical health. Embedding Mental Health First Aiders into the organisation was a core part of this strategy from the very start.”
Thames Water began by running pilot MHFA England courses in 2016 as part of its ‘Time to Talk’ mental health strategy and then introduced it across the organisation the following year.
"Mental Health First Aiders are a catalyst for engagement, providing our employees with the confidence to come forward and seek support at their time of need.”
Thames Water has over 350 employees trained across the organisation and the impact is clear. For every one physical First Aid intervention, Thames records five Mental Health First Aid interventions.
Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAiders) are clearly identified with a stand-out green lanyard, representing the cultural change that has taken place. Employees who wear them view it as a badge of honour, showing - that they care about mental health and are here to talk. In addition, over 250 employees have openly joined the mental health online engagement forum, posting stories, hint and tips on how to manage their mental health in a positive way.
Karl comments, “the introduction of Mental Health First Aiders has led to a cultural revolution across Thames Water. Mental Health First Aiders are a catalyst for engagement, providing our employees with the confidence to come forward and seek support at their time of need.”
The opportunity to become an MHFAider is publicised across the organisation through its internal magazine, social media, wellbeing champions and videos, as well as word of mouth from current MHFAiders. The interest from employees wanting to take the course to become MHFAiders has been superb, and courses are fully booked a year in advance.
There are already over 350 MHFAiders across Thames Water but it has a target to train a minimum of 10% of all employees in MHFA skills. It will continue to offer training to all employees across the organisation as an integral and extremely valuable part to its overall ‘Time to Talk’ mental health strategy. With its impressive results and innovative approach, Thames Water is leading the way in the sector when it comes to dealing with mental health as an important workplace issue, but it’s not stopping there.
Karl says: “I believe that Mental Health First Aid England training would benefit all workplaces, regardless of sector. The value and saving we’ve made from intervening and keeping our people in work as a result of intervention by our Mental Health First Aiders has been extraordinary. But not only would businesses gain economically, more importantly, they would have a happier and healthier workforce.”