For several years now there has been a welcome change in people’s attitudes towards mental health and wellbeing. It is on people’s agenda. The problem is that for many organisations, that is where it has stayed, while other priorities take precedence.
Could this be the year that changes? Might we look back in a few years time and say “yeah, 2016 is when we started doing as well as talking”? It would be so nice to think so. It’s five years since I was first ill and I am more passionate than ever about raising awareness and supporting people and organisations, so as to reduce the number of people who end up suffering from preventable conditions, and to promote positive wellbeing.
This year Mental Health Awareness week is 16 to 22 May. It’s not too late to get something happening in your workplace. Recently I received an article from a wellbeing practitioner asking why unicorns and the perfect organisation were alike. The answer is they are both mythical. No organisation has got this nailed. Everyone starts from their own place and needs to do what works for them and proceed at their own pace. The important thing is to start.
This year the Lord Mayor’s Power of Diversity Programme is focussed on mental health – This Is Me – https://www.thelordmayorsappeal.org/power-of-diversity/this-is-me/ . It adopts a model used by Barclays, an organisation that has made great strides in terms of raising awareness, reducing stigma and encouraging conversation about how people are and the conditions from which they suffer – making how we are part of who we are in the workplace. The idea is simple. Get people in your organisation talking about themselves. Barclays have created a host of videos which are on their intranet. That helps reach their thousands of employees across the country and the globe. For smaller organisations, something face to face might work just as well. The campaign is seeking to use Mental Health Awareness week as a springboard to get organisations to follow Barclays’ lead.
Barclays did not start off with people spontaneously recording personal messages of course – they had to know that the environment was one in which it was safe for them to do so. This culture began with awareness raising – conversations with groups of people about what we mean by mental health and wellbeing to help them recognise it was something relevant to them and something they could connect with. Depending on the level of understanding in your organisation, therefore, awareness raising might be a good place to start.
I was talking to a client this week about what they are doing for Mental Health Awareness week and they have planned a series of events around the five ways to wellbeing – learn, connect, give, exercise and take notice. Some of the events will involve formal presentations. Others are much more simple – getting their enthusiastic site manager to take people up on to the roof to take notice of the buildings and heritage around them, learn about it and connect with each other at the same time. If one combined that with a walk at lunchtime to explore local points of interest then you would get some exercise in there to and kill four birds with one stone.
What is important too, of course, is to maintain momentum. It is not all about events that week. So doing simple things, not trying to be too grand, might make it more likely that the activity is ingrained and momentum maintained.
So, let’s take this off the agenda and put it on the action list – let’s get something happening. It does not have to be difficult. If you need some help thinking about what might work for you then please do get in touch. If you want some food for thought then have a look at this – http://www.byrnedean.com/mental-wellbeing/ .
And finally we are holding a free event on 20 April from 6pm at King’s College London to discuss what a mental health and wellbeing strategy might look like. We have speakers from a range of different organisations. If you are interested in attending please go to http://www.byrnedean.com/events/byrne-dean-event-20th-april-a-strategy-for-mental-health-and-wellbeing-in-your-business/ and register. We would love to hear from you.