NEAS Mental Maintenance

MM 2There has been an increasing need for mental health in-house provision across the ambulance sector. Working in emergency services can take its toll. Exposure to traumatic events, the demands of shift working and an uncertainty of what’s in store each day, can all affect employee mental health.

The nature of emergency services, combined with personal issues, the stigma around mental health, a culture of not sharing how we feel, hospital waiting times, and the increasing cost of living, can all have an impact.

During these tough times, we recognised that our staff were going to need more support.

In 2022, mental-health related absences cost the Trust over £2million and 26,848 days lost, with yearly comparisons of days lost due to mental health reasons increasing year on year. It’s clear that we need to look after our staff so that they are well and will be better equipped to look after our patients.

After speaking with staff, we found they felt there was a lack of clarity around mental health resources and that they were overwhelmed with choice. Staff said they felt a lack of consistency in mental health approaches and cultural differences in how mental health was viewed between colleagues from different ages and lengths of tenure.

Staff also said they found the things that helped their mental health most were taking time out when needed, having regular check-ins with managers and being able to prepare for shifts.

From this, we identified there was a desire to be provided with individual opportunities to improve wellbeing rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Our ambition was to set out a new future where:

  • Individuals (at every level) need to be equipped with the personal skills, tools and resources to be able to look after themselves effectively
  • Managers need to be confident in supporting their team’s mental health
  • Leaders need to create a stigma-free culture which creates the conditions for staff to thrive

Mental maintenanceFrom this ambition, NEAS Mental Maintenance was born.

Andy Walton was appointed as NEAS Staff Psychological Wellbeing Advisor in May 2022, tasked with looking at mental health culture within the organisation and improving support for colleagues. As a mental health practitioner within the occupational health team, he is involved in clinical delivery of support and has led on creating the Neas Mental Maintenance project.

NEAS Mental Maintenance aims to change the way we think about mental health as something to be maintained regularly, rather than only attending in a crisis. We want to inspire colleagues to take ownership of their mental health through education and peer support.

As part of this, we have created a bespoke suite of materials to support colleagues to proactively maintain their mental health. Each document is evidence-based and has been informed by staff across the organisation.

The suite includes:

  • Personalised plan
  • Employee toolkit
  • Managers’ toolkit
  • Suicide prevention and postvention toolkit

The documents have been available on the Trust’s intranet and every employee has been sent personal copies earlier in the year.

The personalised plan enables colleagues to create their own toolkit of approaches in managing their mental health. Colleagues will be able to take ownership of their own mental health and understand what works for them – recognising when they need help and what tools they can use.

The employee toolkit is designed to educate on mental health, with information on different conditions and signposting to further support.

The managers’ toolkit is designed to better equip managers to support their teams and manage difficult conversations and circumstances, while also looking after themselves. Leadership plays a key role in culture shift and making mental health part of the everyday conversation.

Finally, the suicide prevention and postvention toolkit is designed to help support and educate on the risks of suicide within the workplace. It provides support for those having suicidal thoughts or for anyone supporting someone in that position.

The nature of our business means that it is possible for colleagues to attend the scene of a death by suicide of a colleague, or to receive an emergency call from a colleague relating to suicidal ideation.  This isn’t something anyone wants to be faced with but it’s important that colleagues have access to support and information that may help them.

Our hope is that this will lead to greater collaboration to ensure needs are met, reduced need for referral for formal immediate access to therapy and reduced need for clinical interventions. It should also mean clearer access to early triage, assessment, support plans and peer support initiatives that help promote the message for early intervention and prevention.

Essentially, we want to be able to better meet the rapidly changing mental health needs of our staff.

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