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As a business, we know how much we rely on our employees, and ensuring their wellbeing is critical to deliver successful operations. We know our industry can be stressful, demanding continuous concentration, empathy and persuasion in order to provide our clients' customers with a great experience. 

This is why, at Comdata UK, we have made strides to protect our employees’ Mental Health by launching several mental health awareness initiatives. Among them, the recruitment and training of mental health first aiders (MHFA). 

Leading the project is Charlie Dalton, Learning & Development manager for the UK. She talks about how this project came to life:

Mental Health First Aiders are still a new concept

In early 2019, in both our sites, we launched the CareFirst Employee Assistance Programme to all our team members, including a wealth of mental health information on a dedicated portal, and a 24/7 independent helpline for any concerns our team members may be experiencing. 

We had started to work on the next phase of the project in early 2020, providing mental health awareness courses to our supervisory teams, but as everywhere else, permitting all our teams to start working from home amidst the pandemic had to take priority for a while. 

Studies kept coming out, however, showing a clear increase in mental health issues, and particularly a high number of first time mental health issues since the start of the lockdown, so we had to put the project back in motion as soon as possible.

So far this year, we have given half of our team leaders a mental health awareness course, and have recruited among our midst 3 mental health first aiders. Our goal is to have 100% of our team leaders trained in mental health awareness by the end of 2021, and if this is successful, to also roll these courses out to more managerial positions.” 

Normalising conversations around mental health

Mental Health First Aiders are still a new concept in a lot of companies, and it is important to highlight that they are no substitutes for therapy and other forms of mental healthcare, and they do not replace fully trained specialists. They are, however, here to listen, to support the fact that it’s OK to not be OK, and to help eliminate the stigma about mental health issues. Jamie, one of the Comdata UK mental health first aiders, has this to say on the subject:

Mental Health perception is evolving, but the topic is still a touchy subject, especially for men who struggle to come forward because of the stigma around it. I was also in this situation and struggling, but I was in complete denial about it, until I started talking to my best friend. We went for a long walk, and they suggested that I could ask for help and that it was OK to do so. I went to the Samaritans, and realised I had a lot of things to get off my chest. Now I understand a lot more about Mental Health, and the training course I followed was really eye-opening. 

We learned that Mental Health is much more than depression and anxiety. Some of the symptoms can be uncontrollable anger, or even hallucinations. A big part of the course was to learn how to be attentive to non-verbal behaviours, signs that could hint at mental health issues. Our role is to be here to hear our team mates. If needed, we can offer an independent and non-biased opinion, signpost to further help, through the NHS or through other organisations, and most of all, normalise the conversations around mental health. When it becomes easier to be back in the office, we will aim at scheduling a few hours of open availability per week, so people can drop by and have a chat if they feel like it. In the meantime, we are available through email, phone calls, video calls, any way that our teammates feel the most comfortable to engage.

Recent research data by Deloitte shows that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion a year, the main causes being absenteeism, or ‘presenteism’ in poor mental health situations, but investment in tackling mental health issues has shown an average return of £5 to every £1 invested. *

At Comdata, we are committed in investing in human potential, and the well-being of our employees matters a great deal. We are confident that this investment will not only benefit us internally, but will positively impact the overall delivery of our services.

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