Derbyshire science company expands mental health first aid training to students

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Hazelwood-based Lubrizol has expanded its nationwide team of mental health first aiders to include students.

A Derbyshire science company which has trained up a UK-wide group of mental health first aiders to support staff has expanded its training programme to include students too.

Lubrizol, a chemistry company whose UK technical centre is based at Hazelwood near Duffield, has added to its team of mental health first aiders by investing in training for representatives of its student cohort.

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Every year Lubrizol welcomes students on their placement year and currently has 18 based in Hazelwood and another four at its Manchester branch in Blackley. Students work and learn in a variety of departments from science labs to creative services.

James Beeston and Nathan Sawyer at LubrizolJames Beeston and Nathan Sawyer at Lubrizol
James Beeston and Nathan Sawyer at Lubrizol

More than a quarter of Lubrizol’s Hazelwood workforce are either current students, or are working full time having started out on a student placement or apprenticeship.

Nathan Sawyer and James Beeston, two students on placement at Lubrizol in Derbyshire, have now been trained up to be mental health first aiders after managers agreed that students would benefit from having support from people of their own age and stage in life.

James, a chemistry student at Durham University, said: “Mental health is important to me. Lots of people I know have experienced mental health struggles. I think as students we are best placed to be mental health first aiders for our age group. We can empathise with students better than other members of staff because we are students ourselves.

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“Being a university student on placement brings its own challenges in that you are having to balance a working day with keeping up with university work. You might also be away from home for extended periods of time.”

Nathan, a Derby University business management student on placement in Lubrizol’s communications department, said: “There were lots of reasons why I wanted to do this mental health first aid training. A lot of people in our age group are struggling with all sorts of things. One thing about being at university and this point in your life is you don’t necessarily have a plan and the job market is very uncertain at the moment.”

James and Nathan said they were delighted that Lubrizol had agreed to support their mental health first aid training, which they found very valuable. The two-day course covered techniques such as ‘active listening’; how to deal with stress, and also potential signs that a person may be struggling with their mental health, such as withdrawing from social situations and showing a lack of concentration.

James said: “I thought the training was fantastic. We discussed lots of topics which can be difficult to discuss.”

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Nathan said he went out running regularly to look after his own mental health, while James also said he enjoyed exercising at the gym.

“I think it’s just the distraction,” said James. “There’s just that release you get from moving. I think exercise is one of the biggest things you can do for your mental health.”

Managers at Lubrizol’s Hazelwood branch began training up mental health first aiders during Covid, as a way of supporting employees while working from home. The project was so successful that the company then rolled out the mental health first aid training across the UK.

Mike Harding, global creative director at Lubrizol, said: “Looking after employees’ mental health is very important to us at Lubrizol. Our student population plays a key role in our company, and we want them to get as much out of working here for a year as we benefit too. It makes perfect sense that we should add to our existing team of mental health first aiders to include students.

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"They are uniquely placed to understand the particular pressures that students are going through and we were very happy to invest in mental health first aid training for two of our students so that all the cohort can benefit from knowing that support is there from people at their stage in life, should they need to reach out.”