Port operator focusing on mental health

PD Ports offices in Middlesbrough. Photograph: Stuart Boulton.
PD Ports offices in Middlesbrough. Photograph: Stuart Boulton.

One of the Tees region’s largest employers, PD Ports, is placing a renewed focus on the signs, symptoms and solutions to mental health issues with a dedicated mental health awareness week.

As one of the largest employers in the Tees Valley, the port operator says it has long been committed to the health, safety and wellbeing of its people and is launching the dedicated campaign as we approach the end of the year and reflect on the many personal and professional challenges presented by Covid-19, 

PD Ports has launched a full week of initiatives, including pausing operations for a short period to encourage conversation, to raise awareness of mental health issues and reduce the stigma that stops so many people from seeking help.

The awareness week is the latest step in an ongoing journey of awareness at PD Ports, as the port operator recently trained over 40 employees to become mental health first aiders, on hand to give confidential advice to colleagues when required. 

PD Ports’ CEO Frans Calje said: “2020 has been a hugely challenging year, with the Covid-19 crisis still affecting how we live, work, socialise and go about our daily routines. 

“Statistics show that one in every four people experience some form of mental health issues and, as the pandemic continues, we felt that now was the time to really elevate the conversation to the next level. 

“We hope that by dedicating a week to activities and initiatives to raise awareness of mental health, we will open up the conversation amongst our people, challenge the stigma and encourage people to seek help if they feel they need it.”

Gary Wright, deputy people officer at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, was complimentary of PD Ports’ efforts to raise awareness, saying: “This year, more than ever, the importance of managing our own colleagues’ mental health and well-being has been of the utmost importance. As a frontline service, we have been impacted dramatically by the ongoing world health pandemic.

“The move by PD Ports to invest in their own colleagues is to be celebrated. We are very fortunate across the Tees Valley to see forward-thinking employers make moves to break down barriers and start conversations around mental health.”

Earlier in the year, as lockdown started to take hold, PD Ports launched a new employee communication tool in the form of a mobile application, Strive. The app is designed to connect people across all 13 sites nationwide and houses a number of features, such as an ‘Ask Frans’ section which grants direct confidential access to the CEO, to improve engagement.

The app also has all the latest company issued notices, such as Covid-19 guidance and news stories, and promotes positive collaboration through the ‘cheers to your peers’ section which allows employees to celebrate their peers and their achievements.

Frans also features in the latest Tees Business Leaders online Q&A, alongside Karl Pemberton of Tees firm Active Chartered Financial Planners and Maxine Alton of local charity The Headlight Project, discussing how businesses can support their people and their mental health as the pandemic continues.