A week-long event designed to improve the mental health of council workers will return in 2021 as part of long-term plans to improve their wellbeing.
Aberdeen City Council’s first awareness week ran in October 2019 to coincide with World Mental Health Day.
The week featured a range of events and wellbeing sessions, and was also open to staff from NHS Grampian and the Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions no events were held last year – but now the local authority has announced it is planning for its return in October.
Plans for the event will be discussed by the council’s staff governance committee next Monday.
A report to the committee reads: “Aberdeen City Council’s mental health awareness week was established to highlight the value that we place on our employees’ mental health of creating a culture where employees can talk about mental health and have support available to allow them to seek help where needed and is open to our colleagues in the NHS and Aberdeen Health & Social Care Partnership also.”
Council’s action plan for staff’s mental health
Aberdeen City Council’s awareness week is a separate event to the UK-wide version, which takes place every May.
The council’s ‘action plan’ to protect staff’s wellbeing also involves training employees to become mental health first aiders.
In the 12 months covered by the report, the number of staff who had become qualified first aiders rose to 72 – up 32 from the previous year.
More than 600 employees also attended training programmes organised through the city council’s partnership with the charity SAMH.
The authority has created what it calls a first-aid network to ensure its staff are supported.
It claims better support for staff’s mental wellbeing can reduce costs through reducing the number of people off sick, while also helping retain workers for longer and increasing customer satisfaction.
First aiders in place to support colleagues
The committee report said the first aiders “act as a trained point of contact for employees who require support and provide guidance on resources available. They are all trained volunteers, independent of line management and offer support confidentially”.
It adds: “Mental health first aiders were approved as a result of guidance implemented which required them to be interviewed about the role and provide references.
“Following the mental health first aid training which is provided by the North East Scotland College they are provided with support from the mental health co-ordinator and there is a mechanism in place to capture interactions with employees anonymously.”
Jo Anderson, director of influence and change at SAMH, said: “At SAMH, we know that looking after our mental health is just as important as looking after our physical health.
“We’re proud of our work with Aberdeen City Council who have clearly shown their ongoing commitment to the mental health of their staff and the people of Aberdeen.
“It’s so encouraging to not only see substantial growth in mental health first aiders in the city, but to have also welcomed over 600 people to our mental health and suicide prevention training sessions through SAMH Workplace, our initiative to empower organisations across Scotland with the tools they need to support good mental health.
“We look forward to reaching even more people through our partnership in the future.”
The mental health action plan will be discussed by councillors on Monday.