Mental Health Awareness is for life, not just for one week

May 12, 2022
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week – an important initiative which has helped to transform what has historically been a taboo issue, into one which we have all come to better understand.

The focus of this year’s campaign is the issue of ‘loneliness’ – something which with the challenges of the last two years in mind, I am sure we can all relate to.

As Mental Health Awareness Week comes to an end, I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss what the issue of mental health means to us, our people and our business.

As a firm, we have always recognised the fact that our staff are our greatest asset and have therefore consistently had a supportive culture which has recognised the importance of looking after our teams.

This empathetic culture has always been engrained within our business, and I think the foundation of this lies in the fact that we are a partnership and custodians of our own future.

This has allowed us to make longer-term decisions about the direction in which we are steering the business governed by our underlying culture of care which has guided both our business and its people. As an example, we have always been a flexible employer in terms of individuals’ needs – long before agile working was en vogue.

Of course, the pandemic focused a lot of attention on flexible working and health and wellbeing, than had previously been the case, and rightly so.

People across the UK were struggling with lockdown, anxieties around Covid and the impact on them and their loved ones. Alongside this were the challenges of being stuck at home where we were not able to see friends, family or colleagues, and a sense of loneliness began to seep in. In short, everyone’s world had been turned upside down.

This gave businesses an opportunity to place greater emphasis on the health and wellbeing of their people. For us, it allowed us to formalise what had been an informal approach before.

One of our long-established values is that ‘We Care’. This is an approach to working that everyone within our business has always lived and breathed, and was a contributing factor towards our Investors in People (IiP) Gold accreditation.

‘We Care’ became formalised as part of our Purpose and Values, and we look to everyone to exemplify this, treating one another respectfully and appropriately. We have since built on these embedded behaviours in our business and formalised that through creation of our Health and Wellbeing Team, which was over volunteered.

Tanya Horscroft, Training & Development Manager: “The IIP process supported the creation of our Health & Wellbeing strategy which was designed to complement and extend the existing good practices already in place, bringing staff welfare issues to the fore and identifying the support required to address these issues.

“Our aim continues to be that we create a culture where issues that may negatively affect wellbeing are identified, minimised and managed before take hold on staff; this is aided by having six trained mental health first aiders available throughout the firm.”

By formally training Mental Health First Aiders across our business, all sorts of people have called upon their services and have found it a comfort to be able to discuss their work and life issues, in confidence.

Graham Saunders, Partner, London: “I trained as a Mental Health First Aider to get a good understanding of mental health, as this is one of the most talked about topics over recent years. The training helps me to identify the key signs that trigger mental health issues, and I have become a better listener while building up the confidence to offer the best support to others. The training has also benefitted me personally.”  

In addition to our Mental Health First Aiders, we continue run awareness campaigns across the firm, with posters around the offices, promotion of mental health awareness through our Town Halls and with mental health training for all our people managers, who are trained in stress awareness, as we try to be proactive in identifying and supporting mental health challenges as early as possible.

Town Hall and Fun Fund events provide our people with the opportunity to socialise, have fun and offload.

This ability to talk candidly about mental health takes what has historically been a taboo subject in Britain and translates it into something which people are more aware of and more willing to discuss.

In my day, mental health was a hidden challenge that nobody talked about, yet it affected a great many people. Today, I am pleased that things have moved on and that our people are comfortable enough to speak to our Mental Health First Aiders about what they are going through.

Bex Spiller, Head of People and Culture: “I feel very proud to be a Mental Health First Aid Trainer and it was truly an inspirational training course that certainly opened my eyes to a subject that means a lot to me, not just in my work life but in my personal life too. Mental Health can affect anyone at any time and my role is not about trying to make someone better, but just by being there as a support and to remind people its ok not to be ok!”

Mental Health Awareness Week casts a positive light onto an issue which, most of us will grapple with at some point in our lives.

We all need to be able to talk to somebody and offload our worries, anxieties, and stresses.  Now that veil of mental health secrecy has been lifted through campaigns such as Mental Health Awareness Week, we are all the better for ridding our society of the trope of secrecy.

Our Health and Wellbeing strategy helps us to continue to raise awareness of this important issue, acting as a positive blanket that we can wrap around our business and our people.

It’s not a fad or something which is rolled out or focused on for one week every year. It’s just the right thing to do – all of the time.