Rural Connections - Building Mental Health Awareness in Rural Scotland (Friends of The Scotsman) The last two years has seen an increasing interest in workplace wellbeing, mainly due to the covid pandemic and the impact that it has had on our working practices and overall mental health. Employment forms a big part of our day-to-day lives, and a mentally healthy workplace is beneficial for everyone. Living and working rurally can also bring added challenges to ensuring good wellbeing. Issues of isolation, access to health services and the issue of stigma that is often attached to talking openly about mental health. To help address these issues, Support in Mind Scotland and Mental Health UK have teamed up to deliver the ‘Rural Connections’ project. The project has been funded by Neptune Energy and aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of Scotland’s rural communities. Fully funded online mental health awareness training is being delivered across Scotland to businesses, organisations and community groups. ‘The course will allow me to support any of my team that are struggling and need help and support’: Rural Connections Training participant. The project has provided nearly 30 employers from across Scotland with the opportunity to start the conversation about mental health within their staff teams. From Loch Ness to Mull and the Scottish Borders, the training raises awareness of employees own mental health and develops the skills and confidence to talk about wellbeing within the workplace. Prioritising an employee’s wellbeing is economically worthwhile; with over 70 million working days lost in 2019/20 due to Stress, Anxiety and Depression (Mental Health Foundation). However, there is also a strong case for supporting the mental health of your employees as a caring and responsible employer by investing in the mental wellbeing of your staff team. ‘The training was invaluable and gave me much more knowledge about mental health and banished the myths’ Rural Connections Training participant Employers may like to embed wellbeing within the workplace but may not have the time/resource or simply not know where to start. However, even taking on a few simple actions can be highly beneficial and focusing on what you ‘can do’ within your time, budget and resources is worthwhile. Taking a first step to promoting and supporting workplace wellbeing does not have to be time-consuming or involve a cost, for example: If you are a rural employer with less than 50 members of staff, then enquire about the training here www.supportinmindscotland.org.uk/training The training can help to develop everyone’s awareness about mental health, start conversations and challenge stigma Embedding mental health in your work culture – can you add wellbeing ideas to the staff meeting, a monthly ‘wellbeing café’ or even a staff survey to explore staff suggestions for improving workplace wellbeing Lunch time walking or reading group Tie in to local and national organisations who can provide information, support and guidance e.g., Breathing Space and Samaritans free phone helpline and web services (newsletters, payslips, intranet, staff rooms) Allow a weekly ‘wellbeing window’. One working hour per week to take time for an employee’s self-care (relaxing, yoga, reading, sitting quietly with a coffee…) Investing in staff wellbeing is a worthwhile step for all employers and will help to create a mentally healthy workplace. For more information about ‘Rural Connections’ contact Fiona Thompson, National Training Manager, Support in Mind Scotland [email protected] www.supportinmindscotland.org.uk/training This article first published The Scotsman.