Skanska launch sector leading mental health initiative

Skanska is launching a new mental health initiative, which ensures that all employees from its infrastructure business who have undertaken Mental Health First Aid England’s Mental Health First Aid course, will now be able to display a Mental Health First Aider sticker on their construction hard hat.

Skanska has been working alongside the MHFA England since 2016, when it began a campaign to place greater focus on mental health and wellbeing, and remove the stigma attached to ill mental health.

In February of that year, it became one of the first construction companies to sign the ‘Time to Change’ pledge, after Skanska’s President and CEO, Greg Craig, had been inspired to act by his personal experiences of ill mental health.

The launch of this simple but effective mental health initiative helps to create a working culture where employees feel valued and able to contribute and reach their full potential.

The project has been rolled out across Skanska’s M42 Junction 6 Improvement Scheme- a £255m project to improve junction 6 of the M42.

Out of the people currently working on the project, eight are Mental Health First Aiders.

From today, they will proudly display their qualification sticker on their safety helmets, meaning that all staff will know who they can talk to if they need support.
‘Ensuring resources are available to everyone no matter where they work’

Speaking about Skanska’s wellbeing and mental health initiative, Tricia O’Neill said: “As a contractor, you are starting new jobs all the time and having to drop into new places and sites without a network.

“It’s difficult to build communities. You will often spend long periods away from your family, friends, and your GP. If you’re only there for a few months, people may not get to know you, meaning recognising if someone is struggling and offering the right support and signposting becomes more difficult.”

Through MHFA England training, Skanska mental health ambassadors have gained the skills and knowledge to spot the signs of mental ill health, including stress and anxiety, and offer support and guidance to a range of wellbeing initiatives.

This includes the employee assistance programme run by UK provider Health Assured, which offers around-the-clock support and counselling.

Since 2016, more than 55% of employees at Skanska have been trained in the MHFA England Mental Health Aware course or as Mental Health First Aiders. It has been a KPI for all line managers and executive staff to attend MHFA England training.

‘A problem shared is a problem halved’

Ken Reid, health, safety and wellbeing manager, who works on the M42 highways improvement scheme commented: “Having our Mental Health First Aiders visible on site is helping to normalise conversations around mental ill health and remove the stigma surrounding it. The sticker easily identifies those who are trained and can provide support. People know who to speak to quickly, and if necessary, discreetly, so that they can get the help they need.”

Ken also talks about the benefits of becoming a Mental Health First Aider: “The last couple of years have been tough. We have noticed that more people than ever are coming forward to say they feel lonely and isolated.

“The training from Mental Health First Aid England has given me greater awareness of others’ emotional wellbeing. My fellow Mental Health First Aiders and I listen and offer guidance on where to get the right support. It can be as simple as offering to have a cuppa and a chat with a colleague – as the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved.”
‘Skanska’s ongoing commitment to the mental health of its people’

Simon Blake, chief executive of MHFA England stated: “It is wonderful to see Skanska’s ongoing commitment to the mental health of its people.

“It’s ambition to train its staff in mental health awareness is impressive. The training will only create change if people know where to turn if they need support and feel safe and confident doing so. This initiative helps that. I love the simplicity of it and hope that it will be rolled out more widely across the sector.”