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Feature | October 10 2022

World Mental Health Day: The TechnipFMC Champions who look out for their colleagues

World Mental Health Day is extended throughout the whole month of October at TechnipFMC, raising awareness of the “it’s OK to not be OK” message. Events and workshops take place company-wide throughout the month, but wellbeing challenges don’t disappear for the rest of the year. Support, advice, and professional help are available to employees through company schemes and initiatives.

One such initiative is the Mental Health Champions program at the Dunfermline Campus in the United Kingdom  – run by the employees themselves.

Launched in December 2020, the Champions team now has 18 trained members. While they are there to be a listening ear for people who are struggling, they also focus on prevention.

Ross Urquhart, Service & Aftermarket Commercial Lead, is a Champion at the site, which is a manufacturing base for subsea production systems and home to members of the company’s Subsea and Surface Technologies teams. Ross said, “While the tendency is to focus on poor mental health, we are also trying to ‘promote wellness to prevent illness’.”

The Champions promote good mental health using posters, the company’s global mental health Yammer group, informal meetings, and even walks in the outdoors. Some Champions have led mental health stand-downs for their work teams, using work time to equip their colleagues with coping strategies and provide advice about supporting each other. Each Champion has a flag on their work station, so others know they are there to help.

Ross added, “We want people to be able to talk about how they feel as part of day-to-day life. Those can be difficult conversations. But if we normalize people saying ‘I’m a bit low’ or ‘I’m anxious about this’ and react compassionately, we’ll help each other avoid serious issues.

“If someone needs our help we hope they will reach out to us. We’re here to listen, to signpost the way to professional help, to show them how to access support programs the company has available, or to help them talk to their manager about their problems.

“We’re not counsellors, but we have been trained by professionals to be empathetic listeners and to help people find proper support.”

The Champions also produce internal podcasts where people open up about mental health, which are having an impact. Host Simon Matthews, Business Systems Lead, said, “A colleague spoke to me in one edition about her brother’s suicide and its effects. Later, an employee told me that podcast had been the trigger for them to get professional help. That’s the kind of intervention we aim for – helping people realize that there is help that can get them to a better place.”

Mike Waterson, HSE Director Surface East and REMS Dunfermline, is a Mental Health First Aider and was a sponsor of the Champions’ program.

Mike said, “Every one of us has mental health, and it is not constant. About one in four people are impacted by poor mental health in any given year. The Dunfermline Campus has always had a very strong focus on physical safety, on preventing injuries. We are taking the next step, addressing our whole health – physical and mental. Our Mental Health Champions provide a trained network promoting positive mental health and offering peer-to-peer support, listening and signposting as needed.”

As part of a separate initiative, the manufacturing team at Dunfermline holds quarterly mental health engagement sessions, taking time out to talk and listen to one another about mental health topics.

Ross added, “People’s personal and professional issues affect their quality of life, and the quality and enjoyment of their work. Research says you are up to 31 percent more productive when your brain is positive than when it is negative, neutral, or stressed.”

Other areas of the business have asked Dunfermline’s Champions for advice about developing their own programs. The team is also hoping to help a nearby secondary school start a peer-to-peer mental health program.

Nisha Rai, Executive Vice President, People & Culture at TechnipFMC, is proud of the strides the company is making in promoting positive attitudes to mental health. Nisha said, “Our people are the most important part of TechnipFMC, and safety, including mental safety, is our top priority. While our mental health month puts a focus on the challenges we may face, there is always support available through programs that are open to our employees. We truly believe that our people are at their best when they feel safe, cared for and valued for their authentic selves.”

There are simple steps anyone can take to help achieve that. The first is to show empathy. The second is to listen, not talk. And the best advice? Simon has an answer: “Ask someone, ‘Are you OK?', then ask again. I’d rather potentially annoy them by asking them twice and discover that everything’s really OK, than ask once and leave someone alone with their problem.

“Most of the time, people who feel desperate really want help, but they’re afraid to ask for it, and end up isolated. That second question can make all the difference.”