Leading scaffolding and special access providers, Palmers Scaffolding UK Ltd is committing to a large-scale mental health first aiders training program – Safety In Mind – with support from Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA England).

The Palmers ‘Safety In Mind’ training began with MHFA England courses in early Spring. The aim is to get Palmers operatives trained to a minimum of Mental Health awareness standard – with selected operatives progressing to Mental Health First Aiders – and teach staff to monitor and improve the mental health of its 250+ scaffolding operatives and support staff.

Initially Palmers management and operatives are in training to progress through mental health modules working towards becoming Mental Health First Aiders. And another batch of operatives are already booked for a second wave of the half, one and two day courses in Autumn. There are also additional courses for scaffolding supervisors booked in late July and a bespoke course with Palmers main contractor clients taking place in September.

Safety In Mind pioneer and Palmers Airports Divisional Manager, Tony Mileham said: “We are keen to look after our operatives and staff as well as show our clients, the scaffolding sector and wider construction industry that we are leading the way in our commitment to mental health training… and this training goes a long way to prove that.

“The Safety In Mind/MHFA England program offers superbly curated courses – helping to give real world, practical advice and quality education to help deal with an issue that is blighting our industry, with conditions like depression and anxiety worryingly on the rise and suicide rates in construction way above the national sector average.

“We have Palmers supervision and management teams attending the Mental Health Awareness half day courses this Summer and we intend to get our workforce trained as a minimum to Mental Health Awareness standard by the year end. We will then select the right candidates to progress through to the half day Mental Health Awareness standard, before again selecting candidates for the more involved two day Mental Health First Aid training courses. It’s a long term commitment to improve mental health.”

Ian McFarlane, Palmers Director of Business and Project Development said: “We have always prided ourselves on looking after the safety of our scaffolders and staff, and this Safety In Mind mental health awareness and first aider creation campaign is an extension of those core values. It’s our aim to spot potential issues in our staff before they escalate.”

The MHFA course content covers pertinent mental health issues like:

  • Mental health first aid
  • Mental health
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Impact of stress on your mental health
  • First aid for suicidal crisis
  • First aid for depression
  • Anxiety
  • Personality disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Self harm
  • Psychosis
  • Recovery
  • MHFA planning
  • Substance abuse and its relationship / impact on mental health
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Useful recourses to signpost anyone in crisis

MHFA says: “The course will provide a better understanding of mental health issues and help to demystify some of the common myths that we all can be guilty of having such as thinking PTSD is a combat disease when in reality it’s more prevalent in domestic abuse.”

Around 25% of people in the UK will experience at least one diagnosable mental health issue in any one year (Health & Social Care Information Centre, 2009). Suicide is the biggest killer of men aged 20 to 49 (Office for National Statistics, 2015). Mental ill health is responsible for the largest burden of ill health in the UK, representing 28% of the total burden, compared to 16% for cancer and 16% for heart disease (Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer, 2013).