• Gentoo Mental Health First Aiders at Emperor House

Gentoo tackles mental health head on

Gentoo staff are learning how to recognise the warning signs of when a colleague is struggling with mental health issues.

To raise awareness of mental ill health, tackle the stigma associated with the condition, and to support colleagues, staff within the organisation have received Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training.

The two-day educational course delivered by Washington Mind, teaches how to identify, understand and help a person who may be developing a mental health issue.

Staff have undergone training that covers the most common mental health problems as well as those that are commonly misunderstood. This includes signs, symptoms and risk factors of depression, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders and suicide; including ways to help if someone is suffering.

Louise Bassett, Executive Director (Corporate Services) at Gentoo Group, said: “At Gentoo we hold the health and wellbeing of our staff with the highest regard.

“Mental health is equally as important as physical health and our staff have engaged in a range of initiatives to help improve both the physical and mental health of their colleagues and themselves.”

She added: “As an investor in people, we recognise the impact mental health issues can have on our staff and customers and we now have 45 trained Mental Health First Aiders across the business. These people act as advocates, raise awareness and signpost colleagues who may be experiencing mental ill health issues to a wide-range of programmes and services.

“We are committed to raising awareness of mental health and the stigma associated with the illness, in the hope that more people will recognise the signs and seek support. Supporting each other and showing compassion to staff experiencing mental health issues has become part of our culture at Gentoo.”

One in four British adults will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, stigma still exists around mental ill health and this can lead to delays in people seeking help and support. Mental Health awareness helps to promote emotional wellbeing before mental health services are required. 

Jacqui Reeves, Services Manager at Washington Mind, said: “Mental Health First Aid training teaches you how to recognise the early signs of a mental health problem, develop the knowledge to help those in distress and have an accurate understanding of mental health issues. The Mental Health First aider is equipped with the knowledge of local services that they can signpost to.

“Lack of awareness and general mental health literacy also means that many people don't feel confident in knowing what to do if someone is experiencing mental distress or is in a mental health crisis situation. The training tackles this by raising awareness and providing support and education.”

Coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Week (8-14 May) held by the Mental Health Foundation, Gentoo is encouraging staff and the wider community to talk about any problems they might be experiencing in the hope of tackling the stigma associated with mental health issues.