Working to improve the mental health and wellbeing of Scottish rural communities – Fiona Thompson

Fiona Thompson, National Training Manager, Support in Mind Scotland

Living and working in rural areas can also bring additional challenges to ensuring good well-being. Issues of isolation, access to health services and the issue of stigma often associated with talking openly about mental health. To help address these issues, Support in Mind Scotland and Mental Health UK have teamed up to implement the ‘Rural Connections’ project. The project was funded by Neptune Energy and aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of Scottish rural communities. Fully-funded online mental health awareness training is being delivered across Scotland to businesses, organizations and community groups.

“The course will allow me to support any members of my team who are struggling and need help and support.” Participant in the Rural Connections training.

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The project has provided nearly 30 employers across Scotland with the opportunity to start the conversation about mental health within their teams. From Loch Ness to Mull and the Scottish Borders, training raises awareness of employee mental health and builds the skills and confidence to talk about wellbeing at work.

Prioritizing an employee’s well-being makes economic sense; with more than 70 million workdays lost in 2019/20 due to stress, anxiety and depression (Mental Health Foundation). However, there are also strong arguments to support the mental health of your employees as a caring and responsible employer by investing in the mental well-being of your team.

“The training was invaluable and allowed me to deepen my knowledge of mental health and banish myths” Participant in the Rural Connections training

Employers may want to integrate wellness into the workplace, but may not have the time/resources or simply don’t know where to start. However, even taking a few simple actions can be very beneficial, and focusing on what you “can do” within the limits of your time, budget, and resources is worth it. Taking the first step to promoting and supporting well-being at work does not have to take time or involve cost, for example:

If you are a rural employer with less than 50 staff, find out about training here www.supportinmindscotland.org.uk/training Training can help raise mental health awareness, start conversations and tackle stigma your work culture – can you add wellness ideas to the staff meeting, a monthly “wellness cafe” or even a staff survey to explore staff suggestions for improving wellbeing -being at work Lunch or reading group Link to local and national organizations that can provide information, support and guidance, e.g. Breathing Space and Samaritans, toll-free helpline and web services (newsletters, fact sheets payroll, intranet, staff rooms) Allow a weekly “wellness window”. One hour of work per week to take the time to take care of yourself (relaxation, yoga, reading, sitting quietly in front of a coffee, etc.)

Investing in staff well-being is a worthwhile step for all employers and will help create a mentally healthy workplace.

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