Creating a safe space for mental health conversations at Mitre 10

Mitre 10 employs 6,000 people in New Zealand – which means a lot of people and a lot of opportunities. It also means there’s a lot to manage, which is why they have a support centre of around 350 people.
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Creating a safe space for mental health conversations at Mitre 10

Nicky Primrose has worked with Mitre 10 for five years and has been the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Business Partner for the past two years. Health and Safety has a wide scope that has grown even wider in the past few years, as it has moved to also incorporate mental wellbeing.

“Covid-19 sparked a real desire to make sure our people were looked after and with that kind of trauma, we don’t know what everyone is dealing with,” Nicky says.

“Most of us were safe in our jobs but we didn’t know what else was going on in people’s lives – with their partners, their family members - wellbeing really had to take priority.” 

 Nicky subscribes to the Mental Health Foundation’s Working Well e-newsletter, which is where she first saw the Open Minds e-learning advertised. She signed up and shared it around her workplace, so that individual store managers could also sign up. The e-learning course is dedicated to equipping managers with the confidence and skills to talk about mental health in the workplace.

 It was the materials on how and when to have difficult mental health-related conversations that Nicky found the most helpful. 

“Just knowing that everyone’s got mental health and no matter where you are on that continuum, everyone’s going to experience something [was helpful].”

Creating a safe space for mental health conversations at Mitre 10

“The content around how to have those conversations – what you should say, what you shouldn’t say – was so relevant because we’re all going to have to have those conversations at some stage.” 

 Creating a safe space where people can talk about their mental health is the key, Nicky says. The Mitre 10 support centre has 30 people trained as mental health first aid responders, but she says there is always more information than time to learn it.

 “There’s a real need to look after your people and understand your people. In the past society has had that ‘harden up’ attitude, but it’s been proven that doesn’t work.” 

“I think this e-learning will help educate people, which then leads to behavioural change. Your business without people is nothing, so we have to create a safe environment where people can be confident enough to speak up.”

The tools from the e-learning, Nicky says, take away the apprehensions around having difficult conversations and instead give practical strategies that everyone can use to improve communication in their office. 

“The more people that do it, the better.” 

The three Open Minds e-learning modules include tips on how to make mental health conversations easier, resources to support employees going through tough times and guidance on how to create mentally healthy workplaces.