ONE of the UK’s largest forest management companies has trained 12 employees as mental health first-aiders, recognising the crucial importance of well-being in the workplace.

The staff will now act as a totally confidential first point of contact for any of Scottish Woodlands' 200-plus workers, who might be facing mental health challenges of any kind. 

They are spread across the company's 20 UK offices to ensure that anyone who needs support can access it in their region - but any member of the team can be contacted. 

Ralland Browne, managing director, said: "As a business 80 per cent owned by its employees, Scottish Woodlands has always put people’s safety, health and well-being at the top of its priority list.

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"This is a very practical extension of that approach, to reflect the enhanced awareness of mental health and well-being difficulties, particularly as a result of the pandemic. 

"Whether it's staff from a busy office struggling to find the right balance of home/office working, or someone feeling isolated when working in the woods, we are here to support everyone. We know that mental health issues are not always easily visible and we really encourage people to speak out, and to look out for each other."

As well as offering 1:1 support, the mental health first-aiders will guide staff to the company's Employee Assistance Programme, which includes access to telephone and in-person counselling as well as a phone-based app with tools and guidance for managing stress, anxiety, depression, and other aspects of mental health.

They will also signpost employees to professional mental health organisations if required, while the company has created an e-learning package on recognising, managing and supporting colleagues with potential mental health challenges. This has been shared with all staff, along with details of all the mental health first-aiders.

Forestry Journal: Ralland BrowneRalland Browne

Posters are up in all Scottish Woodlands' offices, and the company is committed to effective ongoing communication with all employees. Although headquartered in Edinburgh, the company has offices across Scotland and in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Ralland added: "This is a really important initiative which means a lot to the business, and to me personally."