How culture improves mental health at NSPCC
- 5 Min Read
Brett Terry, People Director at NSPCC, recently talked to us about how we can reduce mental ill health through culture and environment.
To mark WMHD do you think there are any key areas that HR leaders are overlooking when it comes to the mental health wellbeing of their employees?
Despite employee health being a priority for many organisations recent research showed that employees are still reluctant to speak candidly about mental health problems. The report revealed that 85% of workers thought there was still a stigma attached to stress and mental health conditions in the workplace.
This is evidence that there is a lot more that HR leaders can and need to do to eradicate the fear that speaking about mental health could have a negative impact on their career prospects or relationships with colleagues.
I believe we should all feel able to bring the whole of us to work. We should feel valued, respected and included in our places of work; able to be our whole selves. Having to hide or mask elements of who we are fragments us and perpetuates the stigma, vulnerability and isolation felt by far too many.
We have all worked so hard over the years to ensure there is an environment within the workplace that gives employees the freedom to be themselves – this is particularly relevant for sexual orientation – mental health is just an extension of that.
There is also a lack of commitment to employees wanting to end the stigma of mental health issues in the workplace. I believe HR leaders need to stand up in front of their workforce and identify themselves as the person accountable for the organisation’s approach to mental health support. By doing this you are committing to taking action, making sure it doesn’t fall down the priority list.
How can we prevent mental health awareness from becoming a ‘tick box exercise’?
A major part of de-stigmatising mental health in the workplace is about creating a culture where employees feel confident to openly discuss their mental health needs with their colleagues and line manager.
This requires an all-encompassing strategy which builds awareness, understanding and skills of mental health throughout the organisation, and is backed up by policy. This will ensure employees are cared for and know they have support if they need it. This will, in turn, help them to thrive and make a difference to the company.
This is particularly pertinent in the charity sector because it is an industry that cares for others, so it is vital the employees are also catered for in all aspects of their health.
At the NSPCC we are committed to supporting the health and wellbeing of all our staff and volunteers, including anyone experiencing difficulties with their mental health. To this end, we have adopted specialist support through an employee assistance programme which offers free confidential advice, valuable information and specialist counselling. This helps to make our employees work and home life easier and is available to all our staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
To further our commitment to staff we have put a number of my team from the People Directorate through mental health training so they are better able to assist and support.
How can we open up conversations about mental health in corporate and business environments?
It is about normalising these conversations so mental health isn’t seen as a taboo subject. Employees should feel as comfortable and open about talking about mental health as they would a broken arm or an upset stomach. It is exactly the same
even though one can be physically seen but the other can’t. They can hurt and scar the same and leaders of organisations should never forget that.
We need to break the silence and misconceptions around the issue of mental health, and organisations can start by simply recognising mental health awareness days.
It also doesn’t make business sense for companies to neglect the issue of mental health or support their workers who are suffering from problems. Investing in a mentally healthy workplace can have a cost savings effect by reducing absenteeism, as well as increasing productivity and engagement.
Can you tell me more about your Time To Change pledge at the NSPCC?
Today, our Chief Executive Peter Wanless has signed the employer Time to Change pledge which formally and publically recognises our commitment to taking mental health in the workplace seriously.
We have worked with Time to Change over the summer to put an action plan in place so we can end any stigma about mental health in our organisation. We are extremely proud to be part of this social movement for change in how we think, speak and act about wellbeing in the workplace. I urge other organisations to join the 830 who’ve signed up. Now is the time to unite. Now is the time to change.