8 Ways We’re Removing Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace
1. Publicly Sign the Time to Change Pledge
The Time to Change pledge was announced and explained to the Perfect Image team during a staff briefing. Two staff members of different seniorities told of their mental health experiences and why they were passionate about the initiative. Though HR Manager, Kay Winfield, had been heavily involved in starting up the initiative, we decided Kay would not announce Time to Change, as we didn’t want it to be seen as a “box ticking exercise”.
Our three business owners, Rob Hankin (CEO), Andy Smith (Sales & Marketing Director) and Bruce Hall (Chief Financial Officer) wholeheartedly backed the plan. They signed the pledge in front of the whole business to show their commitment.
2. Implement an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
It can be a challenge for someone to approach a colleague at work about their mental ill health. That’s why we offer staff a free and confidential Employee Assistance Programme from Health Assured. The EAP is a dedicated online resource to help support our staff’s health and wellbeing.
The scheme offers numerous benefits such as:
- Mini Health Checks
- Medical Information
- Fitness Advice
- Financial Wellbeing
- Health e-Hub app available on Google Play and Apple app store
- Online Counselling
- In-Person Counselling
All the above and much, much more.
The EAP scheme is entirely confidential with Health Assured following the strictest standards of data protection, and are ISO27001 accredited. Health Assured counsellors also follow BACP Guidelines. There is also a free 24-hour external and confidential helpline our staff can call during difficult times.
Kay says, “I trained as our first Mental Health First Aider about a year ago, as I knew more was needed within the organisation to support our staff’s mental health and wellbeing. I was delighted that our business owners were also happy to support the EAP. Time to Change has taken this the next step further and it’s great to be a part of. I’m glad we have a way of listening to staff and enacting change to make a real difference at Perfect Image.”
3. Train Mental Health First Aiders
To support staff going through a challenging time; one from HR and one from Marketing and both of different levels of seniority. This meant that should staff be struggling with mental ill health, they had a choice of people to turn to for support. Mental Health First Aiders can’t diagnose or offer counselling, but they can listen and signpost to the right support services.
Jess initially put the idea of Time to Change forward to HR. She says, “I’m passionate about changing attitudes towards mental health in the workplace because I personally suffer from anxiety and I know how isolating and difficult it can be. I would love for mental health illnesses to be treated with the same empathy and lack of stigma as physical ill health. No one should have to feel unsupported or alone particularly during what can be their hardest, lowest times.”
4. Select Mental Health Champions
In the staff briefing we also put out a call to arms for Mental Health Champion volunteers. We wanted people to demonstrate their passion and commitment. While we had expected one or two people to put themselves forward, we had many people volunteering to help. Two Champions with a lot of experience in mental health support were chosen to work alongside the two existing Mental Health First Aiders.
The four Mental Health Champions are members of staff from HR (Kay Winfield, HR Manager), Marketing (Jess Cambrook, Digital Content Executive), Managed Services (Jamie Harris, Service Desk Manager), and Business Systems (Liam Williams, CRM Consultant). Having four Champions from various areas of the business and at different levels of seniority gives staff a choice of who to turn to if needed.
5. Celebrate Time to Talk Day
On Time to Talk Day, 6th February, the four Mental Health Champions took turns sitting in the office’s communal kitchen and starting conversations with staff. We displayed literature about what mental health is, the signs and symptoms, and how to approach a co-worker potentially struggling with a mental health issue. During the day, lots of open and honest conversations took place. Due to the positive feedback, we’re going to look to repeat this event every three months.
Jamie manages a team of twelve people. He put himself forward to be a Champion as he is passionate about removing stigma about mental health. He says, “When the opportunity to get involved with Time to Change came about, I had to take it. I’ve been wanting to get involved with raising awareness of mental health in the workplace since I suffered a bad experience with a previous employer. I suffer from depression and anxiety and my situation wasn’t being taken seriously. Ultimately it ended in me leaving to join Perfect Image!
Since then, I have learned to manage my mental health much better and have been able to support family and friends in the process.”
6. Monthly Wellness Walks
We trialled a wellness walk, and again because of feedback from staff, we decided to make this a monthly event. At least one of our Mental Health Champions leads the group on a half-an-hour walk in the country parks surrounding the office. This was not only to encourage conversations about mental health, but to bring staff together, help new starters to integrate better, to encourage physical exercise, and to boost morale.
Liam says, “I wanted to be a mental health champion as I am passionate about supporting mental health which stems primarily from my time working in a pastoral support role for students at the University of Leeds Psychology department. There I was responsible as the first point of support for around 600 students as well as being exposed to a number of researchers working in the mental health space.
Having seen people close to me suffer from ill mental health I want to contribute to building an atmosphere where everybody at Perfect Image feels able to approach their mental health without worry or stigma.”
7. Regular Pulse Testing
The HR team set up a staff survey about attitudes towards mental health. This is intended to be sent out every six months. The survey results mark us out of 10 in seven different areas, with comment areas for any suggestions and improvement. The Mental Health Champions meet after the surveys to assess the performance of initiatives and to find areas requiring improvement. The anonymous scores and comments help us to find new routes of supporting the whole Perfect Image team.
8. Manager Training
Our business owners have recently signed off on manager training. This will help managers to better understand mental ill health, how to spot the signs, and how to talk to the staff about it.
This is key, as it means that any issues can be broached in monthly one-to-ones with their teams, and managers can directly address issues. Manager training begins in April.
So far, the feedback we’ve had from staff about Time to Change and the improvements made have been generally positive. We are working to address any areas of concern and to continue nurturing areas that staff feel positive about.
Going forward, we will continue to seek feedback from staff and hold regular reviews of staff input. We want to eradicate discrimination and stigma, encourage open, honest conversations, and improve wellbeing.
We may only be 3 months into our 12-month action plan, but we’ve already gotten the ball rolling and we have big hopes for the future!