Tai chi and singing part of council’s offer in supporting staff to help deal with stress

Singing sessions, tai chi and encouraging staff to take time out for reading are just some of the ways Hartlepool Borough Council is helping to reduce staff stress levels. v.1

Sunday, 9th June 2019, 14:33 pm
Updated Sunday, 9th June 2019, 14:51 pm
Hartlepool Civic Centre

Council bosses are pledging to offer greater support to employees suffering from stress and mental health issues, with a number of steps already taken and more actions to come.

Singing sessions, tai chi and encouraging staff to take time out for reading are just some of the ways Hartlepool Borough Council is helping to reduce staff stress levels.

Council officers told the audit and governance committee they are looking to launch a ‘mental health first support’ service in the near future to signpost ways for staff to get support.

Claire McLaren, assistant director for corporate services, said reducing staff stress and taking care of their mental health is one of her top priorities and there are a number of steps in place.

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She said: “One of my big passions is staff wellbeing, I’m very committed to that.

“We’ve done quite a lot of work over the last year to try and encourage staff to take time out of their day to do something for them, take the time to go for a walk, take the time to read.

“We started a number of groups that are positive for wellbeing so there’s HBC Sing, the choir, tai chi and various other things led by officers.

“We will be launching very soon a service called mental health first support, it’s officers who are trained up with the mental health first aid certificate and they will become a point of contact for people within the authority, members and officers, who need to go somewhere to get some support.

“They’re not a counselling service and they’re not medically trained but they will signpost on to other services, it’s just somewhere for people in a crisis in the work place to go to.

“That’s only some of the things we do, we’ll be reviewing our stress policy approach this year as well.”

She added it is also important the council adopts a ‘positive culture’ surrounding mental health to encourage people to talk and help fight the stigma around the topic.

Ms McLaren said: “We know with stress the figures are hidden.

“We’re trying to adopt a positive culture about being open with it, there’s still too much stigma out there about mental health. It’s about a cultural change, we need to get people to talk about it and not be fearful and look out for one another.”

The comments came after Coun Brenda Harrison noted the stress staff are under following cuts and a reduction in numbers, and praised the approach the officers take.

She said: “I think it’s obvious that people will be under a lot of stress because of the huge downturn in man power over the last few years for no other reason than cuts to funding.

“People are taking on other work and I think departments are being very creative in the way that they are going about giving different jobs to different people, but it must cause some stress.”