Mental health charity provides training to East of England Co-op colleagues

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Employees at the East of England Co-op have undertaken Suffolk Mind's mental health training, as it aims to support the wellbeing of its near 4,000 colleagues in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

Suffolk Mind and the retailer are working in partnership to provide colleagues with the knowledge and skills to support each other's mental health, through the Emotional Needs & Resources approach. 

The approach encourages employers to create workplaces which enable people to meet their emotional needs such as control, community and security. 

Jon Neal, CEO of Suffolk Mind, said: "This work with the East of England Co-op goes beyond the standard response we see from some employers, to simply make counselling available to employees, host a couple of wellbeing events and have a few mental health first aiders. The organisation's leadership has sent a clear signal to colleagues that they want to make a real difference by continually improving their workplace culture and training colleagues to be able to support each other better."

Suffolk Mind initially trained the senior leadership team and is now working with more than 200 line managers across the organisation, which it says will create a waterfall effect through the workforce. 

Charlie Green, deputy head of education and training at the charity, said: "It's very important for this training to start as a waterfall which begins in the reservoir of the strategic thinking of the organisation. The training is then reflected through policies, procedures, communication and marketing to support colleague engagement. 

"If you have confident managers who can confidently listen and have a framework to support you, that's a really big step forward to creating a culture of wellbeing in an organisation."

The East of England Co-op said the emotional needs and resources approach is becoming a part of the DNA of their organisation. 

In addition to line managers, funeral and security teams have received training due to their roles often exposing them to high emotions, other people's distress and potentially difficult experiences. 

Charlies said it's vital everyone understands their emotional needs to support their wellbeing, and by normalising mental health conversations we can create a more supportive environment for each other. 

She added: "If you don't give a plant what it needs, you will quickly see that plant gets stressed and its health deteriorate. You can physically see the stress in the plant and the same applies for humans, but we are clearly more complex.

"Our mental and physical health is intrinsicaly connected, we're just in a society where we find it easier to say our back is aching instead of saying our mind is racing. We need to normalise mental health - we all have a brain, so we all have mental health."

Suffolk Mind is dedicated to making Suffolk the best place in the world for talking about and taking care of mental health, a commitment which the East of England Co-op has also adopted for their colleagues. 

Doug Field, Joint Chief Executive at the East of England Co-op, said: "We want to be the best retail organisation in our region for talking about and taking care of mental health, providing our colleagues with a supportive environment to help them grow. 

"We live by the value of being stronger together. By understanding mental health and wellbeing and having the confidence to have those conversations with our colleagues, together we can be unstoppable."

The charity's training is available for all orgranisations to book. To find out more, please visit