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HomeCareersMeet our peopleSue Brown - Mental Health Awareness Week

Sue Brown - Mental Health Awareness Week

Sue Brown, health and safety manager, is another one of our mental health champions at VolkerRail, providing a great resource to employees who need somebody to talk to.

All our champions go through professional mental health first aid training, to equip them with the correct knowledge and resources to deal with employees going through tough times.

To find out how Sue finds being a mental health champion, we asked her a few questions.

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Why did you become a mental health champion?

I started the journey as a mental health first aider, and at the time I was working in Peterborough lodging away from home, as were many of the people working on this particular project. Whilst working there, it quickly became apparent how many people I was working with felt quite isolated from their families, and because it was during the Coronavirus pandemic, many were scared to go home in case they brought it back.

This period of time allowed me to focus on the importance of having conversations with people, and taking time out to listen, which made me begin the process of becoming a mental health champion.

How long have you been a mental health champion?

I started my mental health training in 2020, and have been an official champion since then. Looking back on my role, being site-based, and going around having safety conversations, I have always touched on mental health.

How do you find being a mental health champion?

It can be difficult, but ultimately it can be very rewarding when you sit down and have a proper chat with someone and they open up about what’s happening in their life.

I always try to work mental health into a conversation, as sometimes people don’t always want to ask for help. I make sure I ask: ‘how are you’ to everyone I interact with, and focus on the reply rather than just rushing back to work.

What does mental health mean to you?

To me, it’s about living your best life, being fit, healthy, and robust enough to have the best quality of life possible. I think we need to start thinking about mental health in a similar way that that we think about our physical health as they are both related.

What do you think about VolkerRail's approach to mental health?

I think it’s great. We’re starting to recognise that physical and mental health are closely linked and put the foundations in to give our people the best chance to help themselves and their colleagues. I absolutely love the Building Relationships on Site (BROS ) programme, which is a mental health initiative based on building relationships on-site, and works on how employees communicate, so they notice changes in behaviour – this is really the way forward I think.

BROS will allow us to spot the signs early so help is sought for our employees.

How do you prioritise your own mental health?

My family forms the main part of my support network. I’ve also been rebuilding a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle for about six or seven years, which allows me to completely switch off from work. I also try to keep fit and active , walking my dog and going to a gym class, and spending time with friends helps me manage my stress levels.

The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is anxiety this month. Have you ever experienced this and if so, how do you overcome it?

I’m very lucky that my life hasn’t been significantly impacted by anxiety, but I do suffer from some anxiety, especially from work.

My work is a big part of how I define myself, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do my job well, which can cause anxiety.

If things get bad, I have trusted friends that I talk to, and over the last few months I have become aware of the support available at work. When things get tough, if you reach out, it’s really surprising the number of people who respond to help.