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Increasing mental health measures to support funeral teams post-lockdown

After a challenging 18 months for teams at our 200-plus funeral homes across the UK, we at Funeral Partners have increased measures to support the mental health of employees.

Any Funeral Partners employee can now apply to become a Mental Health Champion and support colleagues struggling with their wellbeing, be it through a conversation or assisting them with a referral to specialist help.

Carolyn McCauley, Funeral Arranger at John Gray & Co Funeral Directors in Bangor, Northern Ireland, was pleased to be accepted into the programme and given the opportunity to challenge the stigma around mental health. She said: “We all have a trained first aider nearby in case of physical injury to our bodies, so it makes sense to also have a first aider for our minds.

“Being able to provide an early intervention for someone who may be developing mental health issues is invaluable, and a responsibility I’m proud to have.”

Carolyn was one of 16 applicants who underwent two days of training over Zoom by Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA), where she learned how to support people with depression, anxiety, self-harm, psychosis, PTSD and suicidal thoughts.

She said: “I found the training to be both fascinating and enlightening. As all of us have a common interest in supporting the wellbeing of our colleagues, we bonded well and were able to share our own thoughts, feelings and fears without judgment.”

Carolyn looks forward to opening up the conversation around mental health in her workplace and is pleased to hear Funeral Partners is already launching a second intake for Mental Health Champions. She concluded: “The value of knowing you have helped make a difference to someone’s life is too great to be measured.”

Funeral Partners’ Northern Ireland funeral homes have also been supporting the wellbeing of those in their local communities by offering online mental health webinars to local nursing home staff.

Michelle McMaster is a qualified trauma therapist, social worker and mental health trainer who has worked in the funeral industry for over 20 years, helping the care sector and funeral homes look after their teams’ mental health through one-to-one and group sessions.

Michelle worked closely with Julian Hodgkinson, Regional Development Director of Funeral Partners in Northern Ireland, and Beverley Brown, Community Relationship & Marketing Manager, to come up with a solution that all the Funeral Partners funeral homes in Northern Ireland could offer their local nursing homes.

Michelle said: “We began hosting online seminars through video calls. However, it became apparent that nursing home staff had limited time to attend given the increasing demands they faced at work.”

This resulted in creating mental health webinars, which will be recorded and uploaded to the funeral homes’ websites over the next month, so nursing and care staff can access these videos to learn about a range of topics in their own time.

Michelle explained: “Funeral directors from James Brown & Sons in Belfast to Adair & Neeley in Londonderry can now show these videos to their local nursing and residential homes so they can receive the support they need at their own pace.”

Pending the success of these webinars the concept will be used across the rest of the Funeral Partners network to help nursing and care staff with practical advice and support.

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