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Mental health support for employees during COVID-19

One in 10 adults experience mental health problems at some point in their life. During the first wave of the pandemic, this rose to almost one in five – a staggering increase.

Proact recognised the need to respond to the potential rise in people experiencing mental health conditions early in the first wave. This started with the appointment of a network of Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs) to support Proact employees across the UK – from London to Glasgow. This new role is completely voluntary and after intensive training, the six volunteers are fully qualified and accredited by MHFA England.

Find out why Louise Pegrum, UK Telesales Manager, volunteered for this vital role.

About me: inside and outside of Proact

I have been with Proact for 17 months. It’s safe to say, I have a very varied role which has changed so much during my time with Proact.

Generally, my day starts with a Teams meeting with my team. We all get together and check-in with each other, see what everyone has on for the next few days, and ensure everyone knows what to do that day to achieve our goals. For the last four weeks, I have been supporting two new starters with a range of training sessions with myself, the team and our vendor partners. I’ve also been planning for 2021, as the new year is fast approaching!


Louise Pegrum, Telesales Manager (UK)

Outside of work, I like to keep myself busy. I regularly go to the gym. Although for the last few weeks, I’ve been going for a run first thing in the morning, as the gyms have been shut. I am very fortunate to have a big group of friends that I have had since school, so in normal life I will see them regularly for dinner or shopping and drinking on all occasions. I am also a keen learner, I like to read books that help me develop.

Why I volunteered to be a Mental Health First Aider

As soon as I read the email from HR, I thought this was a great initiative from Proact. I put myself forward to volunteer as a MHFA as I really like helping people. I feel quite fortunate for the life I have, but I know others are not as fortunate. If I can help someone, even in a small way, then I should.

As well, I wanted be part of something important outside of my day-to-day role, and be able to support my colleagues in a different way. It’s not easy to open up and there can be barriers to seeking alternatives, such as a therapy. I feel it’s really important to have someone at work who is trained and accessible that can be approached.

Life is tough and there are more and more people with mental health concerns, especially in the current climate. They should be able to have someone to talk to in confidence where they won’t feel or be judged. I believe a conversation can save someone’s life.

How the role has helped me

I qualified as a MHFA in July. It was quite a tough and intense course, but well worth the time. The course helped me to understand how to approach someone who I feel may have mental health concerns. One thing I learned was to really listen and to avoid giving any advice, which sometimes can be very difficult. Being a MHFA doesn’t make you a medical professional and we should leave the advice-giving to them.

Taking the course and being a MHFA has made me think about how mental health can impact people in different ways. It has also helped me to think differently when dealing with people. I feel I’ve become more understanding, patient and aware. It can be difficult to identify if someone is dealing with mental health issues, so I feel I’ve become more empathetic towards people in general. You never know what someone is going through.

To me the most important part of being a MHFA is to just be there for that person and listen.

My message to anyone struggling with mental health

Speak to someone. The earlier you have a conversation, the earlier you can start working on the concerns you have. There are so many people you can speak to – a MHFA, your doctor, a counsellor, a friend or family member. It’s just important to take that first brave step.

Thinking about your mental health should be a daily activity for everyone. Life is tough, and it is even tougher right now. It is important you take some time out in your day to think about how you are feeling, to check-in with yourself. If you are having more bad days than good days and this goes on for a period of time, speak to someone about it. You will be surprised the difference this will make.

Proact is committed to supporting every employee’s mental and physical health. In 2021, we will continue with our wellbeing initiatives that look to support employees both inside and outside of work, in particular as we start to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and the imprint that leaves on our lives. Learn more about Proact’s people and culture here.


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