From education to employment

Supporting the Mental Health of Apprentices in the Workplace

Finishing secondary education can be a daunting prospect for many young people. Although a large percentage of students will head off to college or sixth form after secondary school, this pathway is not suitable for everybody.

Apprenticeships offer a vital alternative for young people who do not go on to higher education, instead allowing them to join the workforce and learn hands-on skills they can use for the rest of their lives.

Change at any time in a person’s life can be difficult, and the transition from the classroom to the workplace may be especially tough for a young adult.  A sudden increase in responsibility can be overwhelming and may take some getting used to.

The pressures of balancing work and life can sometimes be challenging, leaving some individuals, especially young apprentices, feeling ill-equipped to manage and maintain their mental health. Those experiencing problems may find themselves less present in work, and as a result, unable to apply themselves effectively.

Providing the right support for apprentices is an integral part of making a workplace a happy and healthy environment. Digital mental health services are one solution that companies are introducing to support their youngest staff. Ben, the automotive industry charity, introduced SilverCloud to their support services during 2020, and now aid a growing number of individuals.

Ben reached out to SilverCloud in 2019 with a service delivery plan, to develop a mental health pathway which provides support for individuals (who work or have worked) in the industry, as well as their family or dependants.

The mental health pathway aims to provide a stepped care approach to offer individuals a more informed choice plus control over how they receive support for their mental health and wellbeing.

Ben‘s stepped care model was designed to provide intervention at different levels dependant on need – from self-help tips and advice to tools (accessed via Ben‘s website), as well as a therapeutic digital platform, telephone, and face to face support.

Ben‘s Mental Health Pathway also provides specialist support including: a mental health assessment service; trauma, family, and relationship therapies; plus access to Ben‘s Life Coaching service.

Speaking as to why they felt SilverCloud was the right option for Ben, Julie Hayes, Head of Specialist Services, said:

“We were looking for an evidence-based digital (mental health) solution that provided a programme of support through which individuals had the power to reach out with easy access, opting for either a supported or unsupported route. SilverCloud was the standout platform of a limited selection that fitted this criteria.

“Our Health & Wellbeing Director, Rachel Clift, had previous experience implementing SilverCloud into a work and health programme for a prime welfare-to-work provider and had already witnessed the effectiveness of SilverCloud first-hand.

“Moreover, the evidence-based nature of the programme, alongside the fact that CCGs and the NHS were already using the platform in different parts of the country, drove our decision.

“Our focus was to introduce a sustainable delivery model for our mental health pathway, given 60% of those who reached out to us were doing so for support for their mental health and wellbeing. As a charity, we wanted to support more people through prevention and mild-to-moderate issues – and being there for those at crisis point.

“SilverCloud Health provided us with the option of preventative programmes focusing on sleep, wellbeing, and resilience; as well as the mild-to-moderate programmes, with more condition specific programmes such as managing anxiety and depression.”

When deciding on whether to accept a job or apprenticeship offer, many would-be applicants now weigh up the benefits package offered to them by a prospective employer. Pay is on the list, but 84%[1] of Gen Z-ers who are currently in the workplace said that they value mental health support over other benefit options. In fact, only 16 per cent of under-25s are satisfied with their existing benefits package. The inclusion of a mental health and wellness element can prove to be an attractive feature for young people, especially those who are about to embark on this next step in their lives.

The pandemic has had a massive impact on the mental health of young people, making it extremely important that they are given the correct support moving forwards. This, in turn, will equip them with the tools to cope in the face of difficulty later in their careers.

Rachel Clift, Health & Wellbeing Director at Ben, spoke about why they felt it was especially important to be a provider of support for automotive apprentices.

“We know that 1-in-6 children and young people aged between 5-16 are likely to have a mental health issue, and that around 52% of 17-23 year olds have experienced deterioration in mental health in the last 5 years[2].

“Where we can, we want to ensure that we offer informed choices and empower young people to access support for their mental health and wellbeing, which is easily accessible when and where they need it.

“While we live in a digital world, not everyone wants to receive support via digital channels – but the same is true in reverse. There are young people who may prefer to access support digitally, and the beauty of having this option is that we can use different channels to support individuals who reach out to us.

“There is no time limit as to how long someone can be supported by Ben, so they may interact with a range of services which Ben offers, including self-help via our website, through SilverCloud, over the telephone, or in person.”

In order to destigmatise the act of asking for help at work – rather than fearing it will be seen as a weakness – employers must make it clear that they will support staff. One of the clearest ways to do this is to signpost access to a mental health programme, be it digital therapy or having a wellbeing lead at work.

SilverCloud Health provides clinically proven and rigorously tested digital mental health services, used as the preferred provider for companies such as BUPA and Nuffield Health. Launched 10 years ago, their platform has currently helped over 500 companies and 900,000 people, with 80% of users showing improvement in depression and anxiety symptoms and 65% of users experiencing clinically significant improvement. Moreover, they are the number one partner to the NHS for digital mental health services in the UK & Ireland, already used across the majority of NHS trusts in the country.

With a plethora of programmes available on their platform, SilverCloud’s digital mental health tools are extremely adaptable to any company, offering both bespoke and off the shelf solutions for its employees. Employees are given access to two apps: one for general mental wellbeing as well as a specialist mental health app. The apps cover the majority of workplace mental health issues including stress, anxiety, and depression.

Providing mental health support is a clear demonstration that a company values the wellbeing of its apprentices, both during and outside of work hours, as they make the tentative transition from school to the workplace. 

By Dr Carolyn Lorian, Head of Clinical Transformation at SilverCloud Health

[1]Wet Ones. 2022. The 2021 Employee Benefits, Health, and Wellbeing Survey | Wet Ones. [online] Available here [Accessed 23 February 2022].

[2] The Children’s Society, 2021

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