Q&A with Tabitha Connolly and Kelvin Sidaway
Here at The Fortec Distribution Network, we are passionate about mental health and to celebrate World Mental Health Day on Saturday 10th we wanted to highlight some key areas of this often overlooked aspect of well-being.
Our Human Resources (HR) team and our Health and Safety (H&S) team are key players in ensuring that all Fortec staff are supported with their mental health at work and at home, throughout the year.
We spoke to Tabitha Connolly, Group HR Manager for Pall-Ex Group and Kelvin Sidaway, QHSE Manager for the Fortec Distribution Network, about different areas of mental health and how you can promote good mental health in work and at home.
Why is Mental Health important?
Tabitha: “Mental health and wellbeing is so important, especially in the workplace. It can effect everything about you, from your mood and how you interact with others, your performance and even your sleeping patterns.
“Here at Fortec, we ensure our employees have access to the tools and support they need for good mental health.
“The subject used to be very taboo, but thankfully we are talking much more about mental health, which is better for everyone, especially since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“By ensuring we can support our employees mental health, we are making Fortec a more positive and productive workplace.”
Kelvin: “Mental health is something we all possess. When it is good, we have a sense of purpose and direction and feel that we can cope with whatever life (and work) throws at us.
“But just as our physical health fluctuates, so too our mental health goes through ups and downs.
“Raising awareness of mental health issues in the workplace is part of Fortec’s way of creating an inclusive workplace, where people feel able to bring their whole selves to work.
“It is our responsibility to keep everyone safe both physically and mentally.”
What can people look out for to spot mental health problems developing?
Kelvin: “There are a wide range of signs and symptoms to mental health, it means there can be any number of indications that someone is struggling.
These can range from feeling generally low, confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate, excessive fears and worries, extreme mood changes of highs and lows, withdrawal from friends and family, low energy or problems sleeping.
A full list of potential warning signs can be found here – bupa.co.uk
“Any of these signs can help us to identify someone that may be struggling and allow us to step in so we can support them.”
Tabitha: “Following on from what Kelvin has said, it is important to keep an eye out for changes in behaviour, attitude and approach towards everyday life.
“It may not be obvious to the person who is suffering with mental health problems, but their friends, family and colleagues may be able to notice a change. At this point, it is vital for them to seek guidance and help, so the individual’s mental health can be cared for.
“In terms of here in the workplace, if we or a staff member’s manager spot a change, we will check in with that person and start a conversation with them about how they are feeling at the moment. This way, we can hopefully help early enough to prevent the mental health issue getting any worse.”
What are some of the areas of mental health that can affect people at work?
Kelvin: “There are numerous mental health issues that can affect people all of which can vary in their severity.
Conditions such as stress and depression are spoken about more often, but eating disorders and psychosis can be just as common, so it is very important to understand the effects these issues can have too.”
Tabitha: “Our staff are the heart and soul of our business, so making sure they are healthy both physically and mentally is key to keeping our business running successfully.
“Any staff member who is dealing with mental health problems, whether they are those listed by Kelvin or any others, they should know that we are here to support them and help them find a way of coping.”
What techniques can you recommend to promote good mental health and wellbeing?
Tabitha: “Maintaining good mental health should be as important as maintaining physical health. Lots of people will go to the gym three times a week, but will take no time at all to work on their mental wellbeing.
“To keep your mental health in a positive place, it is important to stay connected with other people. This has been challenging recently thanks to Covid-19, but make the most of technology to connect with people virtually when you can’t meet in person. Doing this can help to provide you with a sense of belonging and self-worth!
“Staying active is also vital to maintaining positive mental health. Exercise creates chemical changes in your brain that can improve your mood, so it is always a great way to improve mental health.”
Kelvin: “I couldn’t agree more with what Tabitha has said. Socialising and being active are massively important to good mental health.
“In addition to this, it is also great to always try to learn new skills and develop old ones. Even acts of kindness can help improve your mental wellbeing by creating positive feelings and a sense of reward, giving you a feeling of purpose and self-worth, and helping you connect to people.
“There is so much information out there that is aimed at helping people to maintain and improve mental health and we are always happy to help if anyone has any questions.”
For more ways to maintain mental wellbeing, visit: www.nhs.uk
What advice can you give for coping with Mental Health Problems?
Kelvin: “If you feel as though you are struggling to cope or you need help understanding what you can do to improve your mental health, speak to friends, family or a professional.
“There are several general strategies that you can use to support someone with mental health concerns, listen without making judgements and concentrate on their needs in that moment.
“Ask them what would help them in their situation, reassure and point them in the right direction for practical information or resources as well and you can ask if there is someone they would like you to contact.”
Tabitha: “We have a number of services available to staff here at Fortec.
“We have a 24/7 confidential support and advise line that staff can access to speak to someone and ask questions if they don’t want to speak directly to us, as well as online resources.
“It’s also important that people know they can speak to their GP about mental health too. As we have said before, mental health is just as important as physical health, so please don’t neglect it and take action if you are worried about anything at all.”
Managing Director of the Fortec Distribution Network, Adrian Bradley, also understands the importance of good mental health and wellbeing and is keen to continue Fortec’s commitment to helping employees deal with any mental health issues they may face.
He comments; “Fortec is very aware of how important mental health is for our team and the wider community as a whole.
“Mental health can affect everybody at any stage of their life, so we are committed to making sure we provide a support network to help our people if they encounter mental health issues.
“Our people are our greatest asset at Fortec and it is our responsibility to look after all of them as best we can and I am proud we continue doing this in new and innovative ways.”
For more information about mental health and the tools available to help you cope if you are struggling, please visit the below organisations;
https://pandasfoundation.org.uk/ (postnatal / perinatal mental illness)
General Mental Health resources that cover a wide range of illnesses: