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Sat May 21 2022

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Hard hat stickers for Skanska mental health helpers

17 Jan Skanska has an initiative to make its mental health first aiders more visible.

These men are recognisable as mental health first aiders by the stickers on their safety helmets
These men are recognisable as mental health first aiders by the stickers on their safety helmets

 All employees from its infrastructure business who have undertaken Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England’s mental health first aid course, will be able to display a course completion sticker on their construction hard hat. 

The project has begun on Skanska’s £255m M42 Junction 6 improvement scheme near Birmingham airpport. Out of the hundred or so Skanska people working on the project, eight are mental health first aiders. From today they have a sticker on their hard hats showing their qualification to advertise their services.

Skanska UK Highways director Glennan Blackmore said: “The idea of stickers, identifying mental health first aiders is such a simple one but the impact for those on site could be potentially life changing. My hope is that this initiative will be adopted across the industry, helping to reduce the stigma surrounding mental ill health.” 

Skanska has been working with MHFA England since 2016, when it began a campaign to place greater focus on mental health and wellbeing. It wanted to remove the stigma attached to mental ill health. In February 2016, it became one of the first construction companies to sign the ‘Time to Change’ pledge, after Skanska UK’s president and CEO Gregor Craig’s personal experiences of mental ill health. 

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Since then, more than half the have been trained in the MHFA England awareness course or as mental health first aiders. It has been a key performance indicator for all line managers and executive staff to attend MHFA England training.

Tricia O’Neill, Skanska UK head of health risk management, 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.”

Ken Reid is a Skanska health, safety and wellbeing manager on the M42 highways improvement scheme. He is also a trained mental health first aider. He said: “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.”

He added: “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.”

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