Funeral Partners increases employee mental health support

Funeral Partners has announced it is increasing its measures to support the mental health of employees, following a “challenging” 18-months for its 200-plus funeral homes across the UK. 

All employees can now apply to become a Mental Health Champion and support colleagues struggling with their wellbeing, either through a conversation or helping them with a referral to specialist help. 

Carolyn McCauley, a funeral arranger at John Gray and Co Funeral Directors in Bangor, Northern Ireland, is an example of someone accepted into the programme.

She said: “We all have a trained first aider nearby in case of physical injury to our bodies, so it makes sense to also have a first aider for our minds. Being able to provide an early intervention for someone who may be developing mental health issues is invaluable, and a responsibility I’m proud to have.

“I found the training to be both fascinating and enlightening. As all of us have a common interest in supporting the wellbeing of our colleagues, we bonded well and were able to share our own thoughts, feelings and fears without judgment.”  

McCauley was one of 16 applicants who underwent two days of training over Zoom by Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA), through which she learned how to support people with depression, anxiety,  self-harm, psychosis, PTSD and suicidal thoughts.  

She added: “The value of knowing you have helped make a difference to someone’s life is too great to be measured.” 

In addition, Funeral Partners’ Northern Ireland funeral homes have also been supporting the wellbeing of those in their local communities by offering online mental health webinars to local nursing home staff. 

Meanwhile, Michelle McMaster, a qualified trauma therapist, social worker and mental health trainer who has worked in the funeral industry for over 20 years, is helping funeral homes look after employees’ mental health through one-to-one and group sessions. 

She worked with Julian Hodgkinson, regional development director of Funeral Partners in Northern Ireland, and Beverley Brown, community relationship and marketing manager, to find a solution that all the Funeral Partners funeral homes in Northern Ireland could offer local nursing homes. 

She said: “We began hosting online seminars through video calls. However, it became apparent that nursing home staff had limited time to attend given the increasing demands they faced at work.” 

This resulted in creating mental health webinars, which will be recorded and uploaded to the funeral homes’ websites over the next month, so nursing and care staff can access these videos to learn about a range of topics in their own time.  

She added: “Funeral directors from James Brown & Sons in Belfast to Adair & Neely in Londonderry can now show these videos to their local nursing and residential homes so they can receive the support they need at their own pace.”  

The concept will be rolled out across the rest of the Funeral Partners network pending the programme’s success. 

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