Workplace wellbeing was at the heart of ESB’s mental health first aid conference this week, with mental health first aiders from across the group’s national workforce convened in the tranquil surroundings of the Mullingar Park Hotel, County Westmeath.

Inspire’s Therapeutic and Wellbeing Services (TWS) are proud to provide ESB, Ireland’s foremost energy company, with a comprehensive, market-leading employee assistance programme (EAP). This service comprises professional counselling, a 24/7 telephone helpline and full access to the Inspire Support Hub. It constitutes a critical element of ESB’s ongoing commitment to positive workplace mental health. Members of the TWS team were on hand to answer questions about the EAP and Inspire counsellor John McGuire was also available to anyone who might need support through the day.

Ann Mulkeen, ESB’s Health Promotion Officer, welcomed the gathering and praised the strength of its “unique togetherness”, asking that attendees “keep an open mind and an open heart and connect with each other.” Director of Enterprise Services Geraldine Heavey then took to the podium and pointed out that mental health first aid now “represents a global movement of millions”. Breaking down barriers, she said, can increase knowledge and understanding of mental health. “Mental health first aid is a vital skill that can save lives.”

The proceedings kicked off with Dr Pádraic Dunne from the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland. His highly informative lecture looked at how self-care sits at the heart of mental health first aid and laid out a variety of tips on how we can all become “thriving human beings”, personally and professionally.

Mental Health First Aid Ireland’s Donal Scanlan was equally engaging, outlining crucial insights on the impact of loneliness – “loneliness can relate to the quality of our relationships, rather than the lack of them” – and the unique issues surrounding men’s mental health. Following this, HSE Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention Josephine Rigney talked about national suicide prevention policies, while Rob Stephen, representing Grow Mental Health, highlighted some of the ways in which quality of life and wellbeing intersect.

Before heading for lunch, delegates were treated to an address by Bob Carley, Global Wellness Advocate at PayPal. He proclaimed the “room full of kindness” and stole the show with a highly personal reflection on the need to establish balance in life. He signed off with a simple mantra for everyone to adopt: “I am lovely, I am loveable, I am loved.”

Picking up after the break, guests were treated to a musical performance from musician Declan Byrne.

The day concluded with a session on leadership and effective team building with Ultimate Hell Week instructor, best-selling author and former soldier Ray Goggins, as well as a panel discussion of ESB’s mental health first aider survey. Inspire’s Clinical Lead, Dr David Cameron, outlined the benefits of our EAP and discussed the subject of suicide, from trends in demographics to the often subtle signs of distress that people might look for in their peers: “They’re not themselves and that’s often how you open a conversation.”

As a means of celebrating colleagues’ achievements, sharing in their knowledge and looking at new ways of working, this was a successful, vital event. We really hope to be back for the next one.

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