Occupational Health and Mental Health at Norbord
15 May 2019

Mental health problems are common and can affect anyone.  One in 4 people in the UK are affected by mental health problems of some type at any point in their lives. People with mental health problems want to work and to contribute to society, but it is often other people’s attitudes that prevent them from doing so.

Two thirds of employers, when asked, said that they did not feel comfortable employing a person with a mental health problem. Often Occupational Health is the first point of contact that someone may have when experiencing mental health issues as they are in the workplace and available to all staff on a confidential basis and can refer employees on to other health professionals for assessment and treatment.

Within Norbord’s UK mills, we are fortunate to have full time Occupational Health services.

Sometimes people are referred to Occupational Health by managers for assessment if they are demonstrating a change in behaviour, or if colleagues and managers become concerned for their wellbeing.

As well as providing individual support, Occupational health advisors also play a role in educating the work force about mental health issues, and how to recognise signs of problems in their employees and colleagues.

The good news is that people with mental health problems usually recover; there is a better chance of recovery from mental health problems than from some physical illnesses. Education and awareness in the work place is vital to eliminate stigma and improve attitudes, and our Occupational Health professionals have a positive influence on this.      

Our Occupational Health (OH) service allows employees to access confidential guidance and support and is very often the first port of call for many people. This first step in seeking help can be daunting when facing mental ill health and the OH team offer clear and robust guidance and support, using the consultation, where necessary, to signpost the employee to other support services like counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy.

We have the added support of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) offered by our insurers, which affords employees 24/7 access to support services. The service acknowledge that life is full of challenges in health, with finance, in our personal lives and that the EAP is designed to be a positive, preventative programme that offers advice, training and services to deal with events in our everyday work and personal life.

At Cowie, the OH department works in partnership with employees, their line managers and Human Resources, when life throws up challenges. We have been able to offer employees amended work patterns when a family member is undergoing treatment or had a new health diagnosis or when there are issues at home with children, or caring for ageing family members. We also undertake home visits and welfare telephone calls on a regular basis to ensure a level of support and engagement with our employees.

At Cowie, we recognise the importance of work life balance and how being at work, engaging with colleagues and the structure and routine which work provides, is important for good mental health.

Return to work meetings also provide an opportunity to welcome our employees back to work after any period of absence, family-related, bereavement or personal matter, and to reiterate the support network in place.

Routine health surveillance appts are not only used for health screening and monitoring, they afford the opportunity to engage with our employees about keeping good mental health. For example,

  • The importance of exercise and keeping active.
  • Use of alcohol and how this can impact on mood.
  • Keeping in touch with friend and colleagues and how this 2 way approach can be good for you and them.
  • Asking for help, when life presents challenges.

As an employer Norbord recognises that work is a huge part of our lives – and being ‘well’ in every way, plays a part.

If you’re looking for support – or feel that you need to talk to someone, not just this month, in Mental Health Awareness Week, but at any time, be sure to discuss with either your line manager or directly with our mental health first aiders.

  • Contact: Carol Brown / Allison O’Connor
  • Tel: 07803 908462 / 01786 819303 

And if you’re finding a great way to tackle mental health that’s working for you – be sure to share it with us too.

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