Bridgend College has recently been announced as the first educational establishment in Wales to receive an award as part of Mind’s Annual Workplace Wellbeing Index.

The Index is open to all businesses in the UK and is a benchmark of best policy and practice. It allows organisations to discover where its strengths are, and which areas can be improved – and how to do it.

Simon Pirotte, Chief Executive and Principal of Bridgend College, said:

“The fact that this award is based on feedback from our employees makes it all the more meaningful. We have made a great start and recognise that it doesn’t stop here; there will always be more work to do in this area.”

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, said:

“We know that changing workplace culture takes time to filter through an organisation. Encouragingly forward-thinking employers, like those organisations taking part in Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index, are taking steps in the right direction and their bespoke reports identify what they are doing well and the areas for improvement.

“Organisations in the Index like Bridgend College recognise that making workplace wellbeing an organisational priority is the right thing to do. Those taking part have shown a real commitment to make mental health a priority.

“We’d urge other employers to follow in the footsteps of these organisations and sign up for Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index, a benchmarking tool to help them identify where they are doing well when it comes to promoting good mental health at work, as well as highlighting areas for improvement.”

One of the more innovative approaches is hosting regular ‘Walk in my Shoes’ events, where staff and students attend talks from people in the community who have had traumatic personal experiences to gain a greater understanding of mental health problems.

Mental health support isn’t just about counselling and therapy sessions, and Bridgend College is taking a more holistic approach to supporting the wellbeing of its staff and students. As well as organising regular meetings with a local Credit Union for financial support, College staff lay on free fruit once a week and run weight loss and fitness programmes.

Research has shown that there are strong links between physical and mental health, and that physical activity can help boost mental wellbeing. The team at Bridgend College understands this and has used grant funding from Sports Wales to offer a range of classes including Zumba, Yoga, Pilates and other activities.

The college has also developed partnerships with a range of local organisations to best provide mental health support and guidance. These include:

  • Collaborating with the Assistive Recovery in the Community (ARC) programme, to make sure student needs are assessed and those who need it are signposted to services such as GP appointments and Adult Mental Health consultants.
  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) meeting with College staff every term to discuss individual cases (where consent has been provided) so that a holistic approach can be taken to deliver support in collaboration with the mental health team.
  • The Student Wellbeing Team offering a telephone drop-in once a week if a student is presenting with poor mental health and advice is needed to identify a way forward.
  • The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust delivering presentations to reach out to young men in areas of Construction and Engineering to encourage talk about mental health and to normalise the issue among males.
  • A College Counselling service for both staff and students.
  • A dedicated mental health specialist who works with students who have a mental health diagnosis.

Director of People at Bridgend College Sam Morgan said:

“People are not judged, but are encouraged to be open about their health condition(s) without fear of negative consequences.  It is about seeing the person, rather than the illness and working to understand what is needed; from this we can offer individuals tailored support to meet their individual needs.

“It is also about taking time to think about the environment we create as leaders and whether that environment supports wellbeing or impedes it.”

The hard work is already paying dividends. In 2016/17 683 students accessed the Student Wellbeing programme on 2356 occasions and 584 of those students achieved a successful completion of their programme of study. In 2017/18 785 students have accessed the Student Wellbeing programme on 2754 occasions and of those, 709 students have achieved a successful completion.

The deadline for organisations to sign up to the Workplace Wellbeing Index is September 14th 2018. For more information on the Index, or to sign up, visit https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/workplace-wellbeing-index/