Today (10 October) is World Mental Health Day. We take the mental health of our employees seriously, and we are making support available to those who need it, including training Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) across the business.

We’ve spoken to two MHFAs about their experiences.

Natalie Geraghty, from Kier Highways, who we spoke to a few weeks ago, said: “I’ve had depression for a long time, but it started to escalate when I was 21. I managed to put everything to one side while I completed my exams, but six months later, everything spiralled.

“I started getting heart palpitations because of my anxiety, and working as a local reporter at the time, my brain couldn’t cope with some of the stories I had to cover.  I realised it wasn’t healthy for me to stay in that role and so I joined Kier Highways in Area 9.  

“Over the past few years, I’ve got to grips with what I need to do to keep myself on an even keel including taking anti-depressants and using techniques learnt through cognitive behavioural therapy, but life can still feel hard. My partner also suffers with mental health issues which is also tough to deal with at times and so I feel very fortunate that I’ve had supportive managers throughout my time at Kier.

“I’ve always been listened to when I talk about my mental health and how I’m coping with my partner, and no-one has ever made me feel guilty for taking time off for appointments. Becoming an MHFA is one way I hope to help others in similar situations.

“As an industry, although we’re much more considerate of people’s mental health – the fact Kier has trained over 500 MHFAs is testament to that – it feels like we’ve got a way to go when it comes to understanding there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. MHFAs are trained to listen to those in need and direct them to further resources depending on what they say, and I’d like to see the industry adopting this sort of approach to mental health support across the board."

Dan Gallacher, from Regional Building, said: “I have a few friends who suffer from poor mental health, and I wanted to use my MHFA training to give them advice and support.

“Soon after my training, I went on holiday with my family. I text a friend who I knew was struggling, and planned to meet up with him when I got back home. However, a few days into our break, another friend got in touch to tell me he had taken his own life. It hit me hard.

“I posted to my social media channels telling people I’m an MHFA and to get in touch if they needed support. I was surprised by the response, and after meeting up with – and trying to help – a few people, I took some time to find my balance.

“Now, with a bit of distance, I’ve got a renewed sense of purpose and passion about supporting people with their mental health. Having lost a few people close to me recently due to mental health crises, using my MHFA training to help people is something that I feel very strongly about.

“I’m proud to be an MHFA and have the tools to help colleagues and friends. The construction industry is getting better at dealing with mental health, and it’s been great to see Kier getting involved in the Time to Talk campaign. If I could give people one piece of advice, it’s to talk to someone – anyone – before things go too far. You’re not alone.”

Don’t suffer in silence. If you, or someone you know, is struggling, The Samaritans offers a safe space to talk, 24/7, to those who are struggling or suicidal. You can call them on 116 123.

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