Local hero wins well deserved award

Barry Young, a painter with Housing Asset Services, who started work in what is now East Ayrshire Council in 1992, has been recognised by the Scottish Trade Unions Congress (STUC) with an award for “2020 Learner of the Year”.

He won the award in recognition of two aspects of his life:

  • Firstly, in his working role and spare time Barry provides vital support and mentoring to apprentices – a role which has become increasingly vital during lockdown
  • Secondly, through his truly life-changing commitment to his role as a suicide First Aider with the Council’s Here to Listen suicide prevention programme which provides support to anyone having suicidal thoughts.

Gary Craig, Acting Housing Asset Services Manager said:  “Working closely with us here at HAS and with  David Doran in the Health and Safety Team, Barry has done so much to raise the profile of Here to Listen and I know that he has provided critical support which has undoubtedly had a significant impact for many others. This is justified recognition for one of our team who has absolutely gone above and beyond in terms of supporting others. We are all delighted for him and very proud of his achievements.”

David Doran, Health and Safety Manager said: “This is excellent news and well deserved recognition for all the outstanding work Barry does. I had the pleasure of speaking to him recently, ironically around a person he is helping who is in crisis, and he was saying that he had been recognised by the STUC.

“I can honestly say that whilst all of our suicide first aiders – we have so far trained over 70 employees and more than 20 people in the community - do a fantastic job, Barry is always willing to help. And through that willingness to help, he has now supported a great number of people, both colleagues and members of the public, who have expressed suicidal thoughts.

“He is an absolute star and a credit to himself, to Housing Asset Services and both the Council and wider community.”

With typical modesty Barry said: “When I was first told I was being nominated for this award my first thought was “Surely there is someone more deserving than me, I have never sought any thanks or praise for any assessments or interventions that I have carried out. I have done all of it because I want to help others wherever possible, especially in the trying times we currently live in.

“With regards to suicide interventions, I’m well into double figures in terms of interventions carried out since first completing the ASIST suicide prevention training course back in Dec 2018, although most have been in the workplace, I have carried out interventions in the community as well. On one occasion I even phoned someone who had gone abroad with the intention of ending their life.

“It’s understandable that a lot of people would not wish to voluntarily put themselves in a position where someone’s life could ultimately rest on what we say to them in our attempts to seek help for the individual. But what I would say to people is that no matter how dark the thoughts get there is always someone out there willing to help.

“For me, the Council’s Here to Listen strategy has been instrumental in what I’m doing, without the support of other trained staff and the Health and Safety team pushing this agenda, I would not be able to provide the help and support that we currently can offer, which from what I have seen is the best help out there at this current time, especially as we are dealing with all the mental health issues arising from this global pandemic we are currently facing.”

About the Apprenticeship mentoring aspect of his award, Barry says: “I also do Onsite Assessments for Unite the Union, taking unpaid leave from work to carry these out, helping to get tradespeople the correct qualifications to help with their employability and for gaining their Construction Skills Certification Scheme cards to allow them access to the sites in the first place. There have also been talks with one of the Scottish colleges about them using myself and the other qualified assessors to assess the apprentices in the college, this scheme in its infancy at the moment due to the ongoing pandemic and I’m looking forward to doing more with this.”

Depute Leader, Cllr Elena Whitham, Cabinet Spokesperson for Housing and Communities said:

“We’re all delighted to celebrate the selfless efforts put in by Barry and his fellow Suicide First Aiders. A real strength of our Here to Listen programme is the way it works across our services, enabling our workforce to spot the signs, know what to do and allow them offer real and immediate help where it’s needed most. Barry has been exemplary in his approach and there are many people alive today who might not have been here without his care and passion for his role.

“That he also finds time to encourage and contribute to the future chances of apprentices and those looking to upskill through his Onsite Assessments is a testament to just what an extraordinarily special person Barry is. We’re all very proud of him and SO pleased that he’s been recognised with this STUC award.”

Here to Listen  is a programme run by East Ayrshire Council’s Healthy Working Lives team. It aims to provide immediate help for those suffering suicidal thoughts and mental distress both within the workforce and in the wider community.  The Programme was recently given an IESE Certificate of Excellence ‘due to the exemplary standard of the work demonstrated’. You can read more here