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Willerby mental health champions support global wellbeing awareness week

24 June 2024

Wellbeing champions at holiday homes market leader Willerby have shared the importance of speaking out and breaking the stigma surrounding mental health.

Jo Sharp

Willerby has created a dedicated team of mental health first-aiders, all qualified to provide support and advice to colleagues.

With more than a dozen colleagues now acting as mental health first aiders, and a large cohort of line managers and supervisors receiving specialist training, Willerby is deeply committed to staff wellbeing.

Willerby also works closely with Paul Longley at Think Mental Health, which delivers professional mental health courses to businesses in Hull and East Yorkshire.

World Wellbeing Week this year runs from June 24-30, and celebrates many aspects of wellbeing including physical, mental and emotional health. It also encourages business and organisations to embrace wellbeing as a strategic priority. 

Here, some of Willerby’s mental health first aiders explain why they chose to take on the roles and why mental health awareness is so important.

Aaron Winsor, Maintenance Engineer

I became a mental health first aider at Willerby partly due to my own personal experiences with mental health. I wanted to give something back and help other people who may be going through similar things to what I have faced.

I grew up in Hull and had a good circle of family and friends. I played football and was sociable. Things changed when I went away to university at 18. Looking back, I don’t think I was ready for it, maturity wise, and I went into my shell. 

At my worst time, I struggled to get out of bed in the morning, and I’d changed from a confident, outgoing person to something unrecognisable. I put on a lot of weight and I was struggling to sleep.

I remember one day seeing something online about depression and anxiety, and the penny dropped. I took the big step of speaking to my parents, who had noticed changes in me and, in the end, I dropped out of university and came back to Hull. It was a tough decision, but it was the right one for my health.

Today I’m in a good mental state. My best piece of advice to anyone struggling is speak to someone. Every time I spoke to someone about how I was feeling, I felt lighter and a bit better. We need to normalise mental health as a subject, and that’s an important part of World Wellbeing Week.

Martin Capes, Production Planner 

I’ve been at Willerby for 17 years now. I joined the business as a cabinet maker, worked my way up to team leader and then into the role I do now. 

I saw the advert shared with colleagues about the mental health first aider scheme and I didn’t think twice about putting my name down. I wanted to understand the subject more and I consider myself as having a naturally positive outlook, which I think is beneficial.

The training course with Paul took place over two days at the MKM Stadium in Hull. It was really informative, but also eye-opening to realise how many people are affected by mental health at some stage in their life.

It’s not always the quiet person in the room who is struggling. A person who, on the outside, can appear to be the life and soul of the party can actually be the person who needs that help and support.

My biggest message to people is this – make time for yourself. Switch off from your phone, get outside for a walk or a run, and don’t be afraid to spend time on your own wellbeing. It’s not selfish, it’s a really important thing to do.

Sarah Wood, HR Advisor

All of Willerby’s HR team has now gone through the mental health training with Paul and Think Mental Health. 

We know it can be a big deal for someone to take that step and come and talk to HR about any issue they’re facing. We want to be as approachable as possible, and to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to provide support and signpost people to the professional services that are available.

People access those services for such a broad range of reasons. There is no simple explanation for mental health issues and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with them.

There are some basics that everyone can do. Eat well, sleep well, exercise and get outside as much as possible. We have the tools available to us now to help people struggling with their mental health, it just takes that first step of opening up and talking to someone.

I think there’s been a big cultural shift in recent years and the stigma surrounding mental health is breaking. But there is still a lot of work to do and we can’t become comfortable or complacent.

Jo Sharp, Business Project Manager

I first started working at Willerby back in 1996. My current role means I work quite broadly across the business with a lot of different teams.

Because of that, I thought adding some professional mental health training to my skillset would be of real value to Willerby, and also to myself.

Throughout the training, Paul was extremely open about his own experiences with mental health, which made it a lot more relatable and highlighted the importance of having those points of contact for people to go to.

What I would say to people is, the first step is always the most difficult. Talking about the issues you are experiencing can help manage the situation. Talking is the key.

Sometimes I think having a person to speak to who is not in your immediate team is helpful. It can make that first conversation easier, and enable some people to speak more openly.

Martin Capes
Sarah Wood