Staff working for the city’s Streets Ahead programme found out just how important it is to connect with each other during the working day.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, employees working on Sheffield’s highways contract took time out of their day to learn more about the importance of talking openly about their feelings.

In recent years, conversations about mental health have taken centre stage, with a surge in publicity encouraging employers to make mental health a priority, especially amongst men.

The majority of Amey Streets Ahead employees work outside on the streets of Sheffield performing manual jobs that require concentration, very specific skills and 100 per cent focus on safety.  All of that can lead to physical and mental tiredness and stress.

Simon Francis from Sheffield MIND, a local charity, spent an hour at the Olive Grove Depot last week talking to employees about how to spot the signs of someone you know needing support and how just spending five minutes with someone can make all the difference:

“Men are significantly less likely to seek help or talk about suicidal feelings and they are three times more likely to die because of suicide than women.

“But listening and talking to someone you think may need some support can make all the difference.

“We have two ears and a mouth, and we should use them in that order.”

There is strong evidence that connecting to or feeling valued by another person is a basic human need and one that contributes to our overall well-being.

One of the attendees from the session talked about the stigma attached to mental health and how men especially can feel that speaking about it is a sign of weakness.

He said: “You have to talk, or you’ll explode. I go out into the fresh air every weekend walking my dog, and I go swimming every night when I finish work. It all helps to keep my head straight.”

Amey Streets Ahead has recently won an award for its Safe & Sound health and well-being programme. The initiative launched in October last year was recognised by Amey Highways for health, safety and well-being engagement and participation.

As part of the drive to improve health and well-being across the contract, several employees have also been trained as Mental Health First Aiders and Mental Health Ambassadors.

Darren Butt, Account Director at Streets Ahead said: “Mental health is incredibly important for our workforce here in Sheffield. The environments we work in can often be pressurised and sometimes dangerous, which means we have to invest in supporting our staff through challenging times and provide a culture where talking about feelings is encouraged.

“We will continue to work on improving our services for all staff to enable them to feel safe and supported at all times.”

Amey have signed the ‘Time to Change’ employer pledge to show their commitment to changing the way they act and think about mental health. By working closely with Time to Change to deliver on action plans, Amey aim to improve attitudes towards mental health and increase support they provide to employees. To find out more, visit: www.amey.co.uk/your-career/inclusion-and-diversity/mental-health-and-wellbeing/

For more information about the Streets Ahead contract visit: www.sheffield.gov.uk/streetsahead

Photo credits: Pete Hill