Challenging the stigma around mental health in the manufacturing sector

2 mins read

Mark Wilson is the Mental Health and Wellbeing Manager at Ford Motor Company, a newly created role that recognises the importance of good Mental Health and Wellbeing for the Company. Mark was part of a team that was recognised for leading the way in Europe in the Ford Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awards 2021.

Mark Wilson, Mental Health and Wellbeing Manager at Ford Motor Company
Mark Wilson, Mental Health and Wellbeing Manager at Ford Motor Company

The last few years have been a challenge for all of us. Amidst a global pandemic, economic uncertainty and changes to the way we work - the need to support everyone’s wellbeing is greater than ever. The manufacturing sector has not been immune to the impact of these changes, with research showing that nearly half of workers (49%) in the industry say their job has become even more stressful than pre-pandemic. Manufacturing employees face a unique combination of pressures that can contribute to high levels of stress, anxiety, and other mental health difficulties. Therefore, as an industry, we need to shore up and build on our already robust wellbeing offering and I believe Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAiders®) are a vital part of this.

Committing to employee wellbeing is not about the size of a company or the HR budget. It is about understanding that without creating a safe space where people care for each other, your team will never reach its potential. Fortunately, more and more businesses realise that it is important to give all employees the best and most appropriate tools to allow them to succeed in their professional lives. And this has a positive impact on their personal lives too as both are inextricably linked.

Since we first introduced MHFAiders® to our workplace, I have definitely seen an increase in the confidence people feel about having an open discussion about their mental health. Ford has over 200 MHFAiders® working across the organisation with more people constantly signing up for the training. Our partnership with Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England required a long-term commitment to place individuals’ mental wellbeing in the centre of Ford’s culture.

We started off with smaller initiatives with a big impact - like signposting 30-minute walking routes around the external grounds of Ford’s Dunton campus and enabling traditional 1:1s to be held outside. And more recently we have up scaled these initiatives, such as appointing a European Senior Leader as our Mental Health Champion to work with all MHFAiders® at Ford. We have also implemented the Team Mood tool, which is an employee/team sentiment tool that enable teams to understand the ups and downs of working within a team and to pro-actively identify continuous improvement opportunities within their working environment. This tool has really resonated with colleagues working in Manufacturing and Engineering teams, who traditionally have found it difficult to express how they are feeling.

Every company is nothing but its people. This why we aim to build a strong sense of belonging at Ford. We want everyone to have the confidence to open up about their wellbeing and have people they can turn to, should they need support. For us, that’s MHFAiders®. But we don’t leave our MHFAiders® without support. Thanks to the MHFA England’s new MHFA training, they too have somewhere to turn, should they need it through the added support and benefits afforded by the app and wider MHFAider® community.

Whilst MHFAiders® are vital in supporting our employees in the workplace, they need to be supported by a whole organisation wellbeing strategy that has a razor sharp focus on building a positive working culture. I cannot put into words what a difference the right work culture of respect and collaboration could make for your team’s productivity. Which is why we plan to continue encouraging our teams to challenge the longstanding stigma around mental health.

This September, MHFA England has launched its new MHFA course, which is the only licensed, internationally accredited, evidence based MHFA course in England. It has been re-developed through an inclusive lens–promoting equity and understanding around mental health. To find out more about training MHFAiders® for your organisation visit: