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Michele Jones and Richard Dyer handed out leaflets to promote good mental health in the staff canteen at Morrisons
Michele Jones and Richard Dyer handed out leaflets to promote good mental health in the staff canteen at Morrisons

This week’s column is more about the head of Bridlington, rather than the heart. Mental Health Awareness Week runs until Sunday, and it is a subject which really is more prominent than it ever has been before.

Can you remember a general election in the past where the leading political parties were willing to discuss it, never mind present manifesto pledges and promises on how to tackle the problems so many people are hampered by.

As one of Bridlington’s biggest employers, Morrisons is trying to lead the way with making the issue less of a taboo for its staff.

The store employs 212 people, and if the widely-quoted figure that one in four people will have a mental health problem to overcome in a single year, more than 50 Morrisons staff will need support in 2017.

On Monday, representatives from Usdaw, the shop workers’ trade union were in the staff canteen with information about a number of their campaigns.

Michele Jones, organising officer for Usdaw, visited the branch in Bessingby Road and said: “This is to signpoststaff to where they can find help and talk to people, as well as giving them information about their rights.

“We still have people who don’t want to talk about their mental health and are ashamed.

“As a union we are trying to gather evidence so that we can influence things.

“Different retailers work in different ways and some are better than others .

“We need to show that we are thinking of staff, not just when they are in trouble. and being more pro-active as a union.

“Slowly, mental health is being taken seriously. People are realising that relationships are affected by things like stress.”

Michele said Usdaw was campaigning for big companies to have staff who are mental health first aiders. There are requirements for designated staff to know what to do when someone is taken ill suddenly, and how to administer CPR, but the union wants specialists to be trained in how to help people who are having panic attacks.

Helping Michele to hand out leaflets at Monday’s event was union rep Richard Dyer, has worked for Morrisons for 15 years and has been at the Bridlington store since 2012.

“Working at a supermarket is more stressful than you think. It is customer-facing the whole time,” he said.

“It is one of the few jobs where your work is constantly in the public eye. The only time you get any respite is in the staff room.

“On the shop floor, you’ve got to be smiling, you can’t have an off day. And the customer is always right.

“People think you are just a shelf-stacker or a checkout worker, but it is a lot more complicated than that.

“I have known people with mental health issues and I wanted to raise awareness of it.

“They were taking tablets and thought that when they had finished the tablets a week later, they would be better.

“But mental health doesn’t work like that. It is completely different to physical health

In the community, Hull and East Yorkshire Mind is using Mental Health Awareness Week to promote the fact that we can all improve our mental health.

Vicky Anderson, service manager at Hull and East Yorkshire Mind, said: “It’s so important that we are open about our mental health. Too many people don’t ask for help and yet there is support available for people who need it.

“Here at Hull and East Yorkshire Mind we are encouraging everyone to use Mental Health Awareness Week to talk openly about mental health, and to pledge to do something to improve your own mental health.”

Hull and East Yorkshire Mind is running a series of events for Mental Health Awareness week, including Tea & Talk events, and a Wellbeing Wall where people can pledge to do something to improve their mental health.

Chief executive David Smith said “We all experience mental health - sometimes our mental health is good, and sometimes it is poor. By being open and talking about mental health, it helps to reduce the stigma sometimes associated with mental health problems.”

For more information about how you can get involved, contact fundraising@heymind.org.uk or 01482 240200