Member Case Study: REA Group’s Mental Health First Aid initiative
Please can you tell us about REA Group’s Mental Health First Aid initiative?
REA Group’s Mental Health First Aid initiative was conceived with a realisation in 2020 – we had in-house assistance for emergencies (our fire wardens), medical mishaps (our first aiders) but no in-house support to those experiencing mental health issues or crisis. We wanted to create a support network for our people to extend the existing support provided by our Employee Assistance Program. With our incredibly humanistic culture at REA – we wanted to create a thriving group of Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) for all our people to lean on for support when they needed it most.
In July 2020, our first cohort, consisting of members of our People & Culture team who are often asked to provide support in situations of mental health issues or crisis, undertook their MHFA accreditation.
In 2021, as REA and the rest of the world adjusted to hybrid working and living through incredibly challenging times, our Wellbeing Squad forecasted a greater need for MHFA support, and quickly organised to run another 3 sessions of Mental Health First Aid training in partnership with our external partner. We continued offering additional training throughout 2022 and we are proud to now have over 60 trained Mental Health First Aiders at REA Group. Our MHFA network are diverse and span many geographies, teams and walks of life.
How does this initiative fit into your overall mental health strategy?
Our overarching mental health strategy follows closely the global framework put together by Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia. Our north star is for “REA to be a thriving and mentally healthy workplace” in creating a culture of wellbeing & psychological safety; developing and maintaining a healthy working environment; and making resources, tools and support readily available to our people.
The implementation of REA Group’s Mental Health First Aider network directly applies to all three of our pillars and has seen us make considerable progress towards our north star goal.
What’s been the impact?
We have seen a fantastic response to our Mental Health First Aider network.
Part of this success can be attributed to making it as easy as possible to know who to reach out to, and how. We have established regular internal communications and highlighted our live-updated list of MHFAs in multiple places across our digital channels. We’ve also ensured our MHFAs are comfortable and willing to be contactable in many ways, be this phone call, email, or instant direct message – whatever the person seeking assistance is most comfortable with.
Since starting an anonymous monthly poll to understand how many of our MHFAs are being contacted, we have seen an increasing trend of MHFAs contacted by peers for support – showing us that our MHFA network is fast becoming a trusted space for support and access to further resources.
We have had continuing interest from other employees across the business registering their interest in taking on MHFA training, with 35 currently on our waiting list.
By frequently raising the profile of our MHFA network across REA Group, we continue to bring down the walls on the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace, encouraging people to seek help if they are needing it and assuring them they are not alone.
Be ready before you hit a crisis
The pandemic created an immediate need for us to be equipped with an extended network of trusted people to support our team members who were experiencing mental health challenges – far beyond what we could have anticipated. While it would have been ideal to have the MHFA network set up before the pandemic began, we were pleased with the speed with which we were able to bring this to life and begin offering support to our people when they needed it most.
Regular refresh is important
There is a huge amount of content covered in the MHFA training, and while materials were provided – it’s difficult to stay on top of that knowledge. We found that our MHFAs were remembering key points, and not some of the finer details. So we worked to create a system where our MHFAs could keep in contact and keep their knowledge up to date. We recently hosted our first MHFA refresher session with our external provider, which gave us an opportunity to not only refresh skills, but to share reflections from our network on their time so far as a MHFA and identify how we can continue to invest and engage with this network to ensure it thrives in the long term.
From this, we have committed to refreshing our MHFA skills every 6 months and established a digital channel so the network can stay in touch, help support each other and share relevant content or information directly.
Skills for life (not just the workplace)
The uptake and enthusiasm we have seen for the MHFA program has showed us that our people not only see this training as a benefit, but as a skill they can use in their broader life outside of the workplace. As a result, our MHFA network are some of our most engaged team members and are now advocates for our broader mental health and wellbeing strategy and initiatives.