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Scottish company tackles mental health issues head on

BG Danny and Rosie

SCOTTISH recycling and resource management company Binn Group is providing a workplace safety net for employees in a bid to tackle Perth’s growing mental health problems.

Binn Group is working with mental health support charity SPEAK to address the issues which can impact on workers’ psychological well-being, ensuring easy access to support and assistance for its 140-plus strong workforce.

After only seven months into the consultancy partnership, the company is already seeing a 4.5 decrease in absenteeism and an increase in productivity.

Binn Group HR Manager Danny McAtear said: “The waste management industry is regarded traditionally as a tough male dominated environment with workers hiding their stress and emotions rather than opening up and seeking help.

“Knowing there’s someone they can speak to in private on-site – who will be understanding, supportive and non-judgemental – can make a huge difference for employees.”

In-house one-to-one peer support is given by SPEAK founder Rosie McKearnon, who battled for many years with her own mental health problems.

Rosie said: “I know how lonely and overwhelmed you can become when things get on top of you.

“Mental health problems are not something you can shake off. Sadly, not everyone feels comfortable seeking help and even if they do, the waiting time to see a professional can be too long for those who are really struggling.

“The workers at Binn Group know I have been at ‘rock bottom’ and they see that I came through it. This background and personal experience make it easier for people to approach and ask for help to deal with their issues.”

Danny stressed that many people don’t want to raise their issues at home and worry family and loved ones. Therefore, an outlet at work where they will be listened to and supported is seen as a huge advantage.

“Sometimes they just need to unload and get things in perspective and they know Rosie understands the issues,” said Danny. “Others require ongoing support and advanced care which we can access quickly for them.”

To date, around 10 per cent of the Binn Group workforce has stepped forward for that first supportive chat.

Rosie added: “We are now seeing those who have come forward supporting others.

“You know when the chat in the locker room changes from ‘get a grip’ to ‘do you think I could get to speak to her too’ that we have breached the barrier.

“Things are changing – and changing for the better. I’m seeing improvements in the workforce every day.”

Binn Group will be conducting a survey in several months time to identify the impact this groundbreaking collaboration has had. They are in no doubt, however, that this unique proactive approach has pointed the way for others.

“I think Binn Group is fairly typical in having a percentage of employees struggling with mental health issues – the problem is so widespread throughout Scotland.

“What is different is that Binn Group decided to do something about it.

“They value their workers, they recognise the problems of mental health and they’ve tackled it head on with positive outcomes for everyone involved.

“While the NHS struggles to meet the demand for mental health services, the example shown by Binn Group could point the way ahead for the business sector.”