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Yorkshire Housing takes mental health seriously and we are developing ways to tackle issues arising from stress and the daily struggles that many of our tenants and customers face.

With the number of calls from distressed customers rising, some of our staff members have been attending a course run by the Samaritans to help them deal with difficult calls and ensure there is help available for people who are experiencing difficulties.

Yorkshire Housing’s quality assurance officer, Julie Lawton, first noticed an increase in the number of such calls earlier this year and began to monitor them. She said:

“We were getting so many safeguarding reports – some customer services and some frontline staff. We had four concern calls in July and four in August. I only started monitoring the calls when I saw the number increasing.”

It was anticipated that the introduction of Universal Credit would cause some stress among customers and that colleagues could increasingly find themselves dealing with situations where customers might talk of suicide. Julie said:

“We thought about the best approach for people in the contacts centre. We looked at how other organisations manage these situations and found that typically they simply gave out the number for Samaritans. We didn’t feel this sufficiently mitigated the risk and decided we needed to do more.”

The one-day course, called ‘Managing Suicidal Conversations’, was delivered by the Samaritans in September and October for team leaders and volunteers with plans in the future to offer it to support staff who work with customers face to face.

The course empowers staff with the knowledge of appropriate actions to take.

“The reasons vary because of the customer’s mental health,” said Julie. “People feel so isolated. If you have had the training at least people have some guidance in what to do,” said Julie.

Julie spoke of the reasons for implementing courses such as this. She said: “It is beneficial because we are in the business of helping people and supporting our customers. To have customers that are feeling that way is not good for us and not good for people who are on the receiving end of the calls. It has an impact on staff. It is better for their health and they feel they have the support they need.”

If you need someone to talk to you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.