As employers, we are all responsible for championing open conversations around mental health and wellbeing

09/10/2019

This year, our team at Dentsu Aegis Network Leeds voted to support mental health charity, Rethink Mental Illness, as their charity of the year. On the eve of World Mental Health Day it feels pertinent to reflect on the importance of talking about mental wellbeing to help reduce the social stigma associated with mental illness in the workplace and beyond.

Kevin Cunningham Kevin Cunningham Managing Partner Leeds
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With mental health problems affecting around one in four people in any given year, everyone will know someone affected by a mental health issue, whether at work or at home. As an employer, I feel a responsibility to ensure we are breaking down barriers by having open conversations about mental health.

I believe businesses can benefit by supporting colleagues and allowing them to be the best versions of themselves.

As a leadership team, we encourage all our people to feel confident in talking about their own challenges, asking for help where needed, and generally prioritising their own mental wellbeing. We try to equip our managers with the ability to help their colleagues, by ensuring they know what support is available to them; encouraging people to listen, respond and reassure.

Across our business we have embraced a series of wellbeing initiatives over the last twelve months. We have trained members of our team to be mental health first aiders and we offer mindfulness and yoga sessions within the office as well as hosting an annual wellbeing festival. As part of the wider UK business, our people and their family members also have access to our Employee Assistance Programme, a 24/7 confidential counselling hotline that offers fully qualified and trained people to talk to confidentially for support on home or work related issues, whenever needed.

Adopting initiatives like this does not always need a huge investment but the impact can be significant in terms of a healthy and engaged team.

Our fundraising efforts this year have seen our team come together to not only support Rethink Mental Illness, but also truly embrace the key messages that the charity have talked to us about. This includes understanding how to better support each other, encourage a culture of open communication and be more understanding of the wide range of scenario’s that can often cause people to feel out of their depth. From impressive personal and team challenges including the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge and the Henley Thames Marathon, to bake sales, bingo, quizzes and karaoke, everyone in the business has embraced our collective objectives. We’ve come together, learned, laughed and most importantly focussed on the importance of our own and others mental wellbeing.

As a team we have raised over £6,000 so far this year and that figure is still rising. Rethink Mental Illness are focussed on leading the way to a better quality of life for everyone severely affected by mental illness and this money alone could fund over 150 calls to their helpline, a hugely important service for people suffering from mental illness.

Tomorrow is World Mental Health Day, which is recognised by the World Health Organisation as an opportunity for all of us to raise awareness of mental health issues and advocate against social stigma. But it shouldn’t be limited to one day of the year and it is important we continue this conversation. It is important to challenge the stigma that surrounds mental illness and by making it part of the day to day conversation at work.

Kevin Cunningham Kevin Cunningham Managing Partner Leeds
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