It's Ok Not To Be Ok

A trailblazing employee-led Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) scheme is being rolled out across ExxonMobil and Esso at a time when the company is recognising that mental health is as important as physical health.

A trailblazing employee-led Mental Health First Aid Scheme is being rolled out across ExxonMobil and Esso at a time when the company is recognising that mental health is as important as physical health.

More than 56 members of staff have become mental health first aiders at our sites across the UK after receiving training in mental health awareness.  They are available around the clock when on duty to help colleagues in times of stress or simply to lend a listening ear if they are feeling a bit low.

Chris Kane, optimisation engineer and product quality lead at FEP, where the initiative began, is one of those who has become a mental health first aider.  He says the training course delivered by St Andrews First Aid taught him about different mental health conditions and how to identify the signs that someone could be suffering from poor mental health. “It equipped me with the skills and resources to start conversations and direct people towards the right support where formal medical advice can be given,” he says.  “I feel that this course starts to normalise discussion and awareness of mental health and gives people the skills and confidence to have difficult conversations whilst applying non-judgemental listening.”

Paul Clegg, field marketing advisor for Retail Fuels (UK) and another mental health first aider agrees.  “Mental health has been a taboo subject that many people don't want to talk about, but we are proactively encouraging discussion around sensitive and emotional topics saying it's okay to not be okay.   It's not a weakness - it's a sign of strength that you're reaching out and talking to somebody.”

Samantha Doyle, occupational health advisor at Fawley Refinery believes that COVID-19 has also had a much wider mental health impact than expected and this is recognised within ExxonMobil. “We were all touched by the pandemic and have realised that we need to pay more attention to our mental wellbeing,” she says. “We have scheduled more mental health first aider training courses throughout the coming year and had many requests from people who are interested in attending them, which is brilliant!”   

Those taking part in the training from MHFA England know how they can help when someone approaches them, including signposting to expert support where needed. Concerns around confidentiality, respect and kindness are key, so mental health first aiders receive appropriate training to ensure people feel safe and supported. Some of the topics covered are delicate and sensitive, and this course is designed to empower people to provide much needed assistance in times of crisis. There are no formal documents of conversations retained, although mental health first aiders can use an app to record notes to aid follow up.

But whilst great progress has been made in recruiting mental health first aiders across the UK and there are useful resources now available for line managers and supervisors, it is recognised that there is much to do to promote the scheme and encourage colleagues to reach out for help. 

Eddie Fish, market development advisor for Aviation & Marine Fuels is also a mental health first aider. He concludes:  “This scheme is open to all and not restricted to individual business lines, as some people prefer to speak to others outside of their day-to-day team or professional network.  We are working hard to raise awareness of mental health and our message is simple - there’s support for everyone here, regardless of role, so please reach out.  I strongly believe this progressive and ground-breaking initiative will help ExxonMobil as a company to drive forward and look after the wellbeing of us all.”

If you would like support from a trained mental health first aider, information may be found on noticeboards across our sites. Alternatively, please email for assistance or supervisor resources.