Mental Health was at the forefront of a high-profile business discussion during Aycliffe Business Park Community’s first meeting of 2021.
Representatives from three of Aycliffe Business Park’s biggest employers were joined by our local MP for the online event in January, organised by Business Durham’s John Parnell.
Aycliffe Business Park Community (ABPC), which is made up of volunteer representatives from the business park, hosted three online events in 2020 after the Covid pandemic scuppered their ‘normal’ event calendar.
But the group aims to continue hosting events, with more than 50 business delegates attending the latest Zoom gathering.
Paul Howell, the Conservative MP for Sedgefield, was joined by Ebac chairman John Elliott, Hitachi Rail Europe chief operating officer-manufacturing Ross Nagle, Excelpoint managing director Ian Brown and Gestamp Tallent plant director Jonathan Phillips for the virtual meeting.
They discussed Covid and Brexit among other things during the hour-long Q&A, hosted by Aycliffe Business editor Martin Walker.
And Mental Health was one of the subjects high on the agenda.
“It’s absolutely critical,” said Ross Nagle.
“We have mental health workers, initiatives on Mental Health and wellbeing, a system of contact set up including regular routine opportunities to engage, and we look for changes in individuals.
“There’s also the need to be aware that people’s circumstances are continually changing, especially those with children, and we have tried to be flexible to alleviate that.”
Ian Brown said: “I think the more mature workers are coping better. Younger people are going a bit stir crazy, because they’re so used to going out.
“But home workers with children are finding it very challenging. We try to support in every way we can, and we’re also big supporters of the Mental Health charity, If You Care Share, which does some fantastic work in the region.”
On the same subject, MP Paul Howell said: “It’s something you can never have enough time to put into.
“I have five staff working in my team, I have to meet them through a screen, and they all have different challenges they’re trying to cope with.
“The more experienced maybe are more resilient. You just need to be careful and give people space.”
John Elliott said: “It is very important, but we’ve seen no negatives. When times are tough, you don’t have time to be depressed.
“We’ve got to deal with it – negative experience can make you a better person.”
The Covid challenges of the last year were also discussed during the meeting, as well as the challenges and opportunities from leaving the EU.
And all of the business leaders also brought some positive news to the table, with Excelpoint continuing their growth with new recruitment, Hitachi investing £10m in new facilities and Gestamp launching three major new products this year.