Employees across County Durham will soon be able to access more mental health support in the workplace.
Durham County Council has commissioned and funded a two-year employee assistance programme for small and medium sized businesses and voluntary and community sector organisations with fewer than 250 employees.
This work-based intervention programme is designed to help employees resolve any personal or work based issues that might impact their work, health or emotional wellbeing and is a confidential service that will be provided independently of both the council, and the employee’s organisation.
It’s hoped the programme will be particularly valuable as many businesses, organisations and employees now deal with the impact of coronavirus on their work and lives.
It aims to improve mental and physical health, reduce absences due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety, increase productivity and improve staff retention.
Research has found that productivity losses, benefit payments and NHS costs associated with mental health problems cost the English economy £70 billion per year.
The programme will be delivered by PAM Wellbeing, which will provide confidential telephone support and advice 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, via a single free telephone number.
Callers will be able to access specialist advice around a number of issues, including: stress coaching, relationship issues, family or carer difficulties, bereavement, financial issues, consumer or legal issues and information, health and wellbeing, and advice for managers.
Other support measures on offer to employees include telephone counselling, access to self-help tools and links to other appropriate services that can help to protect their health and wellbeing.
The employee assistance programme is part of a wider framework of support for small businesses and voluntary organisations in the county, with plans for a hub to be launched in the near future to provide fully funded mental health training, learning and development resources.
Cllr Lucy Hovvels, cabinet member for adult and health services, said: “We are more aware now than ever of the importance of having good mental health. In fact, a lack of mental wellbeing underpins many physical diseases, unhealthy lifestyles and social inequalities in health.
“As well as having a negative effect on an individual, families and our wider communities can also suffer if mental health isn’t taken care of.
“That’s why it is vital that we have support services such as this Employee Assistance Programme.
“This will help small and medium businesses, as well as voluntary and community sector organisations, to provide the best support to their employees, helping them to feel more valued and resilient in the process.”