Occupational Health Awards 2009: Mental Health and Stress Management

The judge: Anne Harriss

Anne Harriss is the course director for OH programmes at London South Bank University. Before moving into OH education she practiced in both the public and corporate sectors. She is a qualified hypnotherapist and Neuro-Linguistic Programming Master Practitioner. She has used both these therapies successfully with a range of OH issues.

The shortlisted teams:

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS)

What they did: Elements of the work of the MFRS have the potential to impact adversely on the mental health of the workforce. With this in mind, MFRS worked in partnership with Sefton NHS primary care trust to develop a Mental Health First Aid Course.

Impact on staff and the organisation: Staff have reported increased confidence in their ability to help someone with a mental health problem.

Judge’s comment: “The course is run over two days and is designed to teach attendees how to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental ill health, provide initial health, and guide the person to appropriate professional help. The service indicates that the course feedback has been overwhelmingly positive – many participants report that the training has had an immediate impact on their confidence to approach someone in distress.”

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

What they did: The MPS OH project team devised a stress solutions training DVD for officers and staff entitled Shrinking Clouds.

Impact on staff and the organisation: Days lost to psychological sickness have gone down, with a total annual saving for police officers of more than £1.3m.

Judge’s comment: “Stress-related absence is a significant reason for non-attendance within the MPS. Stress is also associated with decreased performance and reduced productivity. The DVD used professionally acted, typical scenarios of life and work stress to deliver its message. The success of the MPS initiatives were reflected in an annual saving of £1,348,237 in direct costs associated with absences attributed to psychological sickness.”

NHS Highland Occupational Health Service (OHS)

What they did: Introduced a tiered approach to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) using a multi-disciplinary team to respond to existing demand for the service.

Impact on staff and the organisation: Early referral has been achieved and the client improvement rate is 89% using a clinical outcome evaluation tool.

Judge’s comment: “Early interventions that were facilitated as referrals into the service are made by a range of practitioners including physiotherapists, occupational therapists and case managers. Those referred were seen within 10 working days as opposed to the usual waiting list of four to five months. Since the introduction of the CBT service, the OHS has seen more than 292 employees and demand for the CBT services has increased, resulting in the recruitment of an additional CBT practitioner.”

Selex Galileo

What they did: The OH team in the UK’s largest supplier of electronic systems for civil and military platforms collaborated with the Health and Safety Executive to introduce risk assessments for ‘hot-spot’ areas, the development of action plans, audit, return-to-work interviews, and rehabilitation programmes.

Impact on staff and the organisation: Sickness absence related to mental health has been reduced, and staff retention rates have increased.

Judge’s comment: “The team developed a programme that included representation from employees, trade unions, management, HR and safety and OH. There was excellent return on investment, including a 23.4% reduction in mental health absences during 2008 compared with the previous year.”

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