It takes courage to talk about how you really feel.

Over 55% of workers have experienced mental health issues in their life and here at Avant Homes we want to be part of the solution. We are committed to making a difference and have signed the Building Mental Health Charter to raise awareness and improve mental health in the housebuilding industry.

As a business we have been investing in employee welfare, support and training of our colleagues. We are therefore extremely proud that we now have 33 trained Mental Health First Aiders across our regions and Group.

The role of an Avant Homes Mental First Aider is to:

  • Have an in-depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing
  • Have the practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues
  • Have the confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress
  • Have enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening
  • Have the knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them with further support

We sat down with Scott Graham, our divisional health & safety and environmental manager and one of our mental health first aiders, to get to know what having this important role means to him. 

Why did you volunteer to be a mental health first aider?

After 12 years in the British Army as a medic and personal trainer, I was unsurprisingly asked if I would attend the course with a previous employer, to help others by sharing my personal and professional experiences in dealing and coping with mental health issues.

As our industry is generally speaking ‘male dominant’, I thought it may help people to speak out and ultimately get help that they otherwise would not have, similar to what I experienced in the military.

I found many organisations such as Mind, Rethink and Hub of Hope help many people with their mental health. Hub of Hope is an excellent website whereby you enter your postcode and it gives you a list of ‘what do you need support with today’. Once you click a tab, for example ‘anxiety’, it will give you the most local support groups in your area. As a mental health first aider this is by far the best tool for me when signposting people.

What does being a mental health first aider at Avant mean to you?

When I first got into construction, I found it to be a very brutal and a fierce environment compared to the military, which probably sounds silly when you compare the two, however I have always been taught to look after my buddy next to me.

Although we work in a fast-paced environment here at Avant, I do like the togetherness it brings, I think it’s what sets us apart from the rest. An example of this was very recently when a colleague asked me “how are you, Scott?”, something which I thanked her for after.

In my 2 years at Avant, I have made some good friends and have positive working relationships with all. I hope to break the stigma surrounding health and safety professionals.

I have a job to do to ensure our business remains compliant, nevertheless this does not mean I cannot and will not be approachable if ever a work colleague feels they need my support. I always try not to be judgemental or forceful with my approach, especially to those that haven’t specifically asked for help. By being mindful, the likelihood is that there will be an event that triggers them one day to get help, at which point I’ll be there to support and signpost them if needed, as I hope they’ll remember our chat.

What do you like the most about working for Avant?

Most days are generally different, which I love. I enjoy the site aspect of my job and interacting with the tradespeople and site teams, and offering solutions when required. You have a voice at Avant Homes which you are encouraged to use, so you’re continuously developing in your role and as a person.

What do you do outside of work to promote positive mental health?

In my years in the military and since working in construction and health and safety management, I have tried to keep myself physically and mentally active.

Physical fitness releases endorphins after training, which are our natural happy pills, which I know help support me and remain focused. I have also found trying to keep a good routine helps my mind, especially if like me you’re going 100mph! A couple of years prior to me leaving the military I started to actively volunteer, something which I have carried on doing to this day. This does not only help those less fortunate than me, but helps me too.

Another interest of mine is coaching football, which I have now been involved in for nearly seven years with my local football team ‘Collingham FC’.

After all my years living away, tours of Iraq but in particular Afghanistan, my family and closest friends are the most important thing to me now. I owe them everything and I am very grateful to have them as I know they contribute to my positive mental health.

by Avant Homes - 08 Nov 21