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Now’s the time for critical conversations around mental health

mental health

The country has just marked Mental Health Awareness Week. It’s been an opportunity to have conversations about mental health in all its forms, and to look ahead to what we can do to provide better support.

This must include our businesses. And it’s by no means a small-scale issue.

The most recent NHS Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey found that as many as one in six people in England over 16 had symptoms of a mental health condition.

A new set of the data is set to be released this year – potentially making for even more sobering reading, amid the cost-of-living crisis and following the disruption of the pandemic.

Creating a genuinely open, considerate, kind environment must not be approached as a matter of business performance or compliance. It’s simply the right thing to do.

Different organisations may have taken different paths that have delivered good outcomes. At Parseq, there have been a few things that we have found valuable on our journey.

The first, is the recognition that mental health, as a topic, can still all too frequently carry with it the weight of a significant taboo.

Before having any meaningful conversations about how to support staff, the culture within a business needs to be one of empowerment.

This goes beyond just stating that it’s ‘OK’ to discuss issues like mental health; it must involve those in leadership positions leading the charge by starting what may be challenging discussions and backing those who have the courage to speak out about their experiences.

When it comes to support itself, it’s important that it is signposted as clearly as possible, and as early as possible, when a person joins a company.

Mental health facilities and support resources may not be available in every business – another issue on its own. But where it is in place, it can’t just be relegated to a line in an employee handbook.

Colleagues need to know from day one what help is available if they need it, and how to access it. And it needs to be something that’s raised proactively, by those welcoming them to a team; clearly an integral part of the culture, not a nice-to-have.

At Parseq, we’re proud to have made mental health awareness a central, formal part of our induction processes so colleagues know what’s available from their first day with us.

And then there’s the need for business-wide buy-in.

While leadership from senior team members can help break stigma, this is an issue that everyone needs to be involved in at all levels. And it can really help broaden engagement and awareness if team members across the board are equipped with the right skills and knowledge.

We’ve prioritised training our team in mental health support. Since the start of this year, we’ve trained or have plans to train seven mental health first aiders and 35 mental health champions – colleagues who challenge stigma and encourage positive mental health within the company – across our sites. This adds to the four mental health first aiders and 27 mental health champions we’d already trained across our teams.

In our Hellaby headquarters, this means that more than a fifth of our entire workforce now has formal mental health first aid training. And this is only set to continue and expand across our sites in the months ahead.

As a business community, we have a responsibility to challenge ourselves to always be doing better on mental health support.

Now is the time for us to be having critical conversations around mental health – and to be sharing and learning from each other’s efforts for the benefit of us all.

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