East Midlands Airport shines spotlight on mental health during UK Airports Safety Week


Staff at East Midlands Airport (EMA) have been trained as mental health first aiders to better support workers and passengers who may have mental health challenges.


Staff received practical training from Mental Health England in how to offer initial support, non-judgemental listening and guidance to colleagues and passengers. The first 13 colleagues to be trained represent departments across the airport including health and safety, security, passenger services, airfield operations, fire, aviation development and car parks. A further 60 staff will also receive the specialist training.

EMA is using UK Airports Safety Week (13-19 May) to raise awareness of mental health matters. One in four adults has experienced a common mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression while one in five has considered taking their own life at some point. Mental ill-health can have a profound impact on family life, relationships and work.

EMA staff have a duty of care to both employees and passengers. For many people, the airport is the start of an exciting journey or holiday. However, for others, it can be a very stressful experience. The hustle and bustle of the airport environment combined with the need to comply with security procedures and, in some cases, a fear of flying can trigger panic attacks and feelings of acute anxiety which may be linked to a person’s wider mental wellbeing.

EMA’s mental health first aiders, who can be identified by a green lanyard, are trained to spot signs of distress in people and appropriate support will be offered. Passengers in need of support can contact the first aiders.

The airport is committed to ensuring that mental health issues in the workplace are also properly responded to and that colleagues receive the most appropriate support. With a workforce of over 650 people, many airport employees work shifts through the night and in roles which require focus and concentration, especially in security, operations and in air traffic control. Mental health problems can be debilitating and can affect someone’s performance. Therefore, it is critical that proactive steps are taken to support colleagues’ mental wellbeing.

Lauren Turner, one of EMA’s duty managers, is responsible for ensuring everything runs smoothly ‘front of house’ and is the first port of call when issues arise. Lauren volunteered to become a mental health first aider and her training has already been put into use when supporting passengers and colleagues. She says: “I think everyone who has responsibility for looking after people at work - whether they be colleagues in a team or customers and passengers - should receive the training. What I hadn’t appreciated was how prevalent mental health issues are. Many of us will experience or have experienced some form of stress or anxiety in our lifetime and, if not resolved, it can often lead to longer-lasting and more debilitating mental health issues. It’s important that people are trained to spot the early warning signs and can step in at the right time to prevent problems escalating. We’re not doctors or counsellors, but the training has improved my ability to listen and to know what advice to pass on.”

Lauren has been instrumental in creating a mental health advice booklet which will be available for staff.

UK Airports Safety Week, which runs from Mon 13 to 19 May, is a national event co-ordinated by the Airport Operators Association (AOA). It is designed to promote safety improvement and development through experience and learning.

Events at EMA during the week include:

- Friday 17 May 04:30am: Flash mob performance by the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Rockchoir (in the check-in hall)

- Saturday 18 May 12-5pm: Aeropark Open Day – fun for all the family including fire engine demonstrations, stalls, games and refreshments.