UNISON has been a keen supporter of the national Time to Talk campaign tackling the stigma of mental health issues since it started two years ago.
And the union’s Redditch and Bromsgrove branch in the West Midlands has been particularly successful in tying it in with its own practical steps to support members.
The branch, which covers both Redditch borough and Bromsgrove district councils, holds quarterly Time to Talk session, helping dozens of staff and leading to a drop in sickness rates.
General secretary Dave Prentis visited the branch for today’s session, to see first hand the practical impact of the scheme, as well as meet members who have benefitted from it and some of the team providing support.
“Days like today make me so proud of UNISON, and of everything our activists and members do to make each other’s lives better, alongside helping our communities every single day,” said Mr Prentis.
The sessions give UNISON members a chance to enjoy relaxation techniques, discuss health concerns with a pharmacist and talk about their finances.
Branch secretary Laney Walsh said: “At our last session, 244 people came along,” says branch secretary Laney Walsh. “And I really believe we helped every single one of them.
“We know we have had a significant impact on sickness rates with a 20% reduction over the years.
“We have also seen an impact when people do have absences.
“People aren’t phoning in and just saying they are sick, they are now saying they are stressed and bringing it to their manager’s attention.”
The value of the scheme was recognised when the branch received a regional UNISON health and safety award for their work on mental health in 2014 and were highly commended in the regional TUC awards.