The mental health crisis in UK workplaces is having its long-awaited moment in the spotlight.
That much became clear at the beginning of the year when Prime Minister Theresa May announced a raft of measures aimed at tackling the stigma around mental health issues, including increasing the support available in workplaces.
Proof also came earlier this week when some of the City’s largest organisations gathered at Deutsche Bank to pledge their support for a new campaign working to reduce the taboos surrounding mental illness at work. ‘This Is Me – In The City’ asks employees experiencing unmanageable stress or mental illness to share their stories with colleagues via video messages.
Run by the Lord Mayor’s Appeal in collaboration with mental health charity Mind, Business Healthy, City Mental Health Alliance and Barclays, the project aims to change attitudes around mental illness and build more inclusive workplace cultures throughout the Square Mile.
Lord Mayor of the City of London, Dr Andrew Parmley, said the high-stress nature of jobs in the financial sector means taboos around mental ill-health can be especially damaging. “Working environments in the City of London can be extremely demanding and high-pressured, and it is in the interest of both businesses and their staff to collaborate in order to change the culture around mental health for good,” he said.
Launched in 2016, This Is Me has over 75 companies sign up to the initiative, and a further 22 organisations running their own campaigns to encourage employees to share stories around mental health. More than 100 personal accounts were shared, with a potential circulation of around 400,000 employees of companies throughout the City.
This year, the campaign is aiming for a reach of one million workers. Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, said it was “refreshing” to see so many workplaces making mental health a priority.
“Employees sharing their own experiences sends a message to other staff that they can do the same,” he said. “As well as encouraging employees to talk openly about these issues, it’s also really important that staff are reassured that if and when they do speak out, they’ll be met with understanding rather than discrimination.”
Figures released earlier this month by mental health awareness campaign Time To Talk revealed that 38% of people with mental health issues said they had been treated negatively as a result of stigma.
Richard Martin, a partner at law firm Byrne Dean who shared his personal experience via video, said it was about normal people telling normal stories, “which all happen to include the fact that they suffer or have suffered from mental illness”.
“By showing others that they are just ordinary people like everyone else, and that their illness is fine to talk about, we remove the fear, the stigma, the taboo.”