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Workplace Mental Health First Aid specialists unveiled at ERT

A Nottingham-based clinical trials technology specialist is helping to tackle the challenge of mental health in the workplace with the creation of two dedicated Mental Health First Aid roles.

ERT, based on Wheatcroft Business Park, is a global data and technology company that captures critical endpoint data while minimising uncertainty and risk in clinical trials.

Following a pilot phase in their Nottingham office, which is home to 150 employees, they now have two fully trained and accredited Mental Health First Aiders in senior software tester Sam Noel-Paton and document and training compliance specialist Julie Knapp.

MHFA England training courses give people tools to support themselves and each other, so everyone can talk about mental health and seek help when needed.

They teach people to spot the signs of mental health issues and guide a person towards support. Sam and Julie's training was delivered over two days, by St John’s Ambulance through MHFA England and funded by ERT.

Stress, anxiety and depression are the biggest cause of sickness absence in our society and mental ill health is responsible for 91 million working days lost every year.

The idea to train Mental Health First Aiders at ERT was conceived by Susan Blackman, director of HR at ERT, who had worked on a similar campaign with the RSPB and has been delivered by Natasha Dames, HR coordinator at ERT, as the Mental Health First Aid champion following a successful pilot scheme.

The training helps organisations to meet the recommended core standards for a healthy workplace as set out for all employers in the Government's Thriving at Work report.

Natasha Dames explains: "We take mental health in the workplace very seriously at ERT and wanted to ensure that we look after the team as best we can. My colleague, Susan Blackman, had seen MHFA in action in her previous role. When we explored it as a possibility here we were delighted with the response from the team who were open to the concept and especially to Sam and Julie who wanted to work through the training. They are performing a vital role alongside their core responsibilities and we cannot thank them enough."

The Centre for Mental Health estimates that mental ill health costs UK employers £34.9 billion each year.

Sam Noel-Paton said: "Mental health is certainly a subject that people are slowly getting more comfortable talking about but in the workplace it is still a real challenge, both for employees and employers. When Natasha and Susan floated the idea of the pilot phase I was very keen to be involved and Julie and I have received some incredibly valuable training.

"ERT have worked with us to ensure we are as available as possible to the rest of the team, whether that is for a quiet chat in person, a discussion over the phone or even a simple breath of fresh air and a walk in the woods behind the office. We aren’t counsellors, this is first aid, but it can be an absolutely crucial first step for someone to take in what can be incredibly difficult times. I just hope we can make a difference whenever we are needed."

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