Mental health is something that all of us ought to be more aware of, and stress at work can be a significant contributor to mental ill-health. In an attempt to tackle this problem, UK water company Thames Water have implemented a virtual reality (VR) training course.
The VR course is designed to put the user in the shoes of a person suffering from the effects of poor mental health, and the course has helped the company reduce work-related illness absence by over 75%.
Karl Simons, chief health, safety and security officer was positive about the effect the technology has had in tackling stress-related illness and is encouraging other businesses to adopt a similar approach to manage mental health among its staff.
Simons, said: “Identifying and tackling mental health problems early can stop issues escalating and improve the chances of recovery. Workplaces, not only the NHS, should have a part to play in supporting this movement. Having a mental health awareness campaign for employees not only helps to support mental health at work but can also benefit our family and friends at home. We’ve evolved to have more and better conversations about how we are feeling, not just physically but also mentally, which has been a real breakthrough.”
Thames Water has showcased its VR mental health course to other safety-critical employers in the UK, including the British Army and other water companies and delivered a demonstration of the technology at the National Health and Safety Executives conference.
The company was recently part of a case study in an independent review of mental health and employers which was conducted by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer. Lord Stevenson said: “The approach being taken by Thames Water using virtual reality to improve mental health in the workplace is one of the most impressive and practical approaches that I came across when Paul Farmer and I were producing our report for the prime minister.”
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