A cause for good

Children's services franchise Stagecoach Performing Arts has launched a new initiative to ensure that key members of the franchise support team are equipped with the skills to recognise the signs of poor mental health.

A cause for good

Children’s services franchise Stagecoach Performing Arts has launched a new initiative to ensure that key members of the franchise support team are equipped with the skills to recognise the signs of poor mental health. This new mental health first aid awareness course was devised so that, no matter the struggles that a franchisee is facing, the support team is equipped to leap into action and assist. Andy Knights, CEO, believes strongly in the importance of offering unlimited and valuable mental health support to his network. Here he talks about the journey he and the support team have gone through to deliver such crucial and innovative care. 

Now more than ever, we see such importance in putting the wellbeing of our network at the forefront of the business. The last few years have been challenging for us all, and we understand the pressure that our franchisees may be feeling as they navigate the new demands felt in a post-pandemic world. Shockingly, it is estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England1 – as an ethical franchisor, this is a sad statistic that we hope we can go some way in counteracting within our own network of over 300 franchisees across seven countries. 

Our goal was to equip some of our support staff with the skills to recognise the early warning signs that franchisees may be struggling with depression, anxiety or other conditions caused by mental health issues. This could be as simple as a phone call between a franchisee and their Regional Franchise Manager (RFM), with the RFM recognising trigger words that are so often related to mental health issues, like ‘stress’, ‘workload’ or ‘overwhelmed’. Or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, a franchisee may make an active request or enquiry about what mental health support is readily available to them – and anything in between. 

The first aider is then able to take the next steps with that franchisee, referring them to a qualified specialist through MFHA England, the mental health first aid training organisation. The most crucial component of this new strategy, launched to the network earlier this year, is that the training was delivered to a real variety of people within our central support team – from high-level management to our internal HR team, and our RFMs. Every effort has been made to ensure that these mental health first aiders are readily available to our franchisees at any time. As trained care navigators, they are approachable and willing to have an open discussion.

Whilst these mental health first aiders are not medically trained to diagnose, triage or treat our franchisees for any conditions, they are aware of the immediate impact they can have by simply opening up a conversation. Our commitment is simply about understanding the needs our franchisees have and being comfortable to support them in any way we possibly can. Through the guidance from MFHA England, any longer-term conditions can be recognised and then dealt with accordingly by a medical professional.

Over the course of the last six months, the training has proven invaluable in reducing the stigma and discrimination faced by those with poor mental health. Those working at our head office that received the training feel better equipped to recognise those early warning signs, and, whilst the majority thankfully have not had to put the training into practice, they would know what to do in any instance.

Stagecoach Performing Arts is a successful franchise operation because of the wealth of knowledge and experience our diverse franchisees bring into our network. So it goes without saying that we do not see this initiative as a ‘one size fits all’ approach to supporting them with their mental health. Our motivation is, however, to unite our network in understanding that there is always someone for them to turn to. After all, is that not our number one priority as a franchisor? 

1 Mind, Mental health facts and statistics, 2020. 

Andy Knights
Andy Knights