The UNISON Bridges to Learning project brought together front-line public service workers in Durham this week. The professional development conference was for UNISON members in the health, social care and education sectors and aimed to: explore issues around mental health in the workplace; to outline how important good mental health is; offer some strategies to manage mental health matters in ourselves, work colleagues and service users.
Ensuring good mental health is important for people to be happy, healthy and productive at work. 15% of people in work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition. Poor workplace mental health is costing the UK economy a huge amount, calculated at between £74 and £94 billion per year.
The UNISON Bridges to Learning Partnership works with UNISON, The Open University and WEA to deliver workplace learning through UNISON branches in the North East
The conference was opened by Clare Williams, UNISON Regional Secretary and chaired by Tanya Pretswell, UNISON NTW Health Branch Chairperson.
In her opening address, Clare Williams identified the government’s ideological obsession with austerity which had cut frontline health and social services in local government, the NHS and the voluntary sector. The reduction of workforces had piled impossible pressure upon the staff remaining in those areas which then caused further stress related illnesses.
Political decisions taken in Westminster which resulted in cuts, in the North East, to quality training and education opportunities has also created immense mental health pressures on young people and the unemployed. UNISON’s role is clear in influencing decision makers to make public services the best they can be.
Clare Williams made a promise to the UNISON members present that they could invite UNISON into their workplaces and tell the union how UNISON could help to improve their working environment.
Keynote presentations at the conference were well received:
- ‘Good mental health at work – more than just a nice to have’, delivered by Faye McGuinness, Head of Workplace Wellbeing Programmes, Mind
- ‘Mental health matters – staff and services under pressure’, delivered by Bea Adi, National Officer, UNISON
Enlightening and enjoyable workshops were also on offer, covering wellbeing topics:Mindfulness • Managing anxiety • Spirituality • Laughter therapy and meditation
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