Falkirk’s mental health team take training academy on the road

The courses are interactive and practical
The courses are interactive and practical

Diane Stewart has a vision of what the workplace of the future should look like.

She sees an office manager allocating training courses to employees saying: ‘You go on your manual lifting course, you go on your health and safety course, and you go on your mental health and well-being course’.

But while the manager of the Falkirk and District Association for Mental Health (FDAMH) Training Academy conceeds mental well-being isn’t ingrained into our professional and working lives, it’s closer than it was.

The academy, which provides mental health and well-being courses to business, organisation and individuals, has achieved unprecedented growth recently.

Between August 2015 and August 2016, the academy delivered courses to over 900 delegates across Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow and West Lothian, reaching 246 people between September and December alone.

The number of courses has also grown, jumping from three when the academy started in 2014 to a healthy 26 today.

Courses are demand-led, practical, interactive, educational and aim to remove the stigma associated with poor mental health.

“The way our lives are and the pressures we are under, it’s likely that most of us will suffer a dip in our mental well-being at some point.

“Some people have the resilience to get through it but some people don’t.

“But, if you have support around you and people who understand, it’s more palatable to get on the road to recovery.

“Figures show that in 2014-15 in the UK, over nine million work days were lost because of stress, anxiety and depression.

“It’s scary when you think that cost over £25 billion per year.

“Our courses encourage organisations to think outside the box and support people in a way that doesn’t isolate them.

“They also teach listening and communication skills which are very powerful.”

The huge demand for courses across the Falkirk area has led to the organisation adding additional courses including Introduction to Counselling and Mindfulness for Well-being.

Diane said: “Mindfulness is really growing in popularity, probably because it is so easy. It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s about empowering people to be able to take time out for themselves.

“This can be doing breathing exercises while you’re waiting in the queue at Tesco, listening to music for half an hour or just closing your eyes for two minutes.

“I would recommend mindfulness to anyone.”

The training academy started life in 2014 as a joint project between FDAMH, Falkirk Council, Citizen’s Advice Bureau and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

Using a Scottish Government grant, a specialist team based at Heron House worked with 466 public sector staff, 300 of which were from Falkirk, initially to help the public cope with potential cuts to their benefits.

Employees learned more about the signs and symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression, and how to use coping strategies.

The aim was to make participants recognise similar feelings in themselves so they could in turn empathise and handle conditions in a friend, family member, colleague or someone they meet through work.

Diane said: “The feedback we had from people who took part on the courses was mindblowing, and it was feedback from those who worked in many different areas like community centre staff, lollipop ladies and those who worked with the DWP.

“People basically told us that they were enjoying their jobs again, and that they were able to deal with and support clients.”

Since then, FDAMH has gone it alone with the training academy, delivering courses to organisations including the University of St Andrews, Enable Scotland and Braes High School.

It has also recruited five sessional trainers located in North Lanarkshire, the Borders, West Lothian, Falkirk and Glasgow so it can deliver courses across the country.

Diane added: “Considering the feedback we have had from Falkirk Council employees, I would really like to take our courses to other local authorities.

“We’re determined to get our message out there.”

The training academy became a social enterprise in August 2016 and supports itself through course fees.

Prices range from £52 for a half-day course to £200 for Introduction to Counselling.

For more information on the Training Academy and course availability, visit www.fdamh.org.uk/academy.