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Power worker helps colleagues better understand their mental health

In the run-up to Mental Health Awareness week (May 13-19), a Norwich man is leading the way to help fellow employees better understand how to access mental health support.

From Press releases - 10 May 2019 12:00 AM

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Darren Cheadle, 46, is a project designer for UK Power Networks which distributes electricity to homes and businesses across the East of England.

While remaining in his day job based in Trowse, Darren has trained as a registered Mental Health instructor and is a keen advocate of the company’s newly launched ‘Working Well’ programme which will see around 100 ‘Mental Health First Aiders’ trained this year to support its staff.

Darren said: “Around ten years ago I had been going through some struggles in my personal life and was trying to support people around me when someone suggested that I look into this course called Mental Health First Aid (MHFA).

“I learnt how to spot signs and symptoms of mental ill health, how best to offer support and also to understand how it was affecting me. It helped me enormously so a few years on I signed up for instructor training so I could run courses myself

“I still design electricity projects, but have a dual role now rolling out half-day awareness courses and two-day MHFA courses. I’ve had some really positive feedback, you really feel like you can make a difference to people’s lives.

“We are still quite a male-dominated industry, in terms of our field workers, and men typically aren’t so good at talking about their emotions so hearing people’s stories and helping to support them has been heartening and inspiring for me.”

It is estimated around one in six people across the UK experience a ‘common mental disorder’ such as depression or anxiety every week prompting employers to give the issue greater attention.

Alex Sturge, head of communication and engagement at UK Power Networks, said: “We have long been proud of our industry-leading safety performance and physical wellbeing has always been a focus, too, but this year we are developing our support for mental wellbeing in a structured way.

“Darren is a tremendous advocate for the work we are doing to help colleagues’ mental health and we are keen to develop the momentum he has helped build and ensure what we offer staff only continues to grow and is easily accessed, including an assistance helpline.

“We want to invest in creating a respectful and compassionate workplace culture that inspires employees to look after themselves and each other.”