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Mental health awareness: breakfast seminar
Page Executive’s breakfast seminar, ‘We can do this: tackling mental health within the workplace’, took place at the Michael Page Victoria House office with keynote speakers Jonny Benjamin MBE and Neil Laybourn, who first met in 2008 when Jonny was about to end his life on Waterloo Bridge in London, when Neil – a stranger – saved his life.
In a survey that we recently ran, it was found that 71% of people still consider mental health to be a taboo subject in the workplace, so there is clearly still much work to do, yet line managers can play a vital role in creating the right culture within the workplace. Gaining organisational backing, that supports the workforce with training and workshops will help professionals to identify signs of mental ill-health within their teams.
Sarah Kirk, Global Diversity and Inclusion Director at Michael Page introduced the session and highlighted our in-house initiatives that have helped to support the mental wellbeing of our employees. Later, Jo Youle, Chief Executive at Missing People addressed the audience and revealed that 180,000 people a year, go missing. She talked about being on the end of the phone line when someone feels suicidal and said: “…over eight in 10 of the adults who go missing have either a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health condition, or are in some kind of mental health crisis at that time." Jo went on to reference an unnamed organisation that didn’t respond well or understand, the problems that one of their employees were going through and it’s important that organisations understand how to deal with these specific situations. In reference to the company, Jo said: “[They] launched a whole disciplinary process and stopped paying a salary”, and she then added: “That organisation has since reviewed their entire practices to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
An informative Q&A followed, where some very interesting questions were raised with equally insightful responses:
In order for us to be able to deal with mental health in the workplace, it would also be useful to hear how your families were able to deal with the situation?
Jonny said: “I think for me personally it was really, really difficult, for my parents and for my whole family at first because we weren't given any information. It was just it was very difficult, but then things have changed over the years.”
James Ski, CRO at Opogo, who was also in attendance, answered this question by saying: “It was interesting for me. Both of my parents were in the medical profession. My dad was an orthopaedic surgeon and my mum was a nurse and yet they hadn't the foggiest [idea] when they walked into the mental health hospital, of how to deal with it. I think that threw them off quite a bit because they were medical professionals and they couldn’t understand why their son was going through that [mental health] situation.”
What type of support would you like to see promoted in schools?
Jonny said: “In Wales, it’s compulsory for all schools to have mental health support counsellors, but it’s not compulsory in England. I’d like to see some mental health support in every school. Better links with the NHS/ Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS)”.
James said: “As parents, we could actually do more in our schools where our kids go to. That could mean time or that could be other resources.”
Mental health in the workplace
In recent times, we’ve seen a much bigger focus on mental health in the workplace. With more and more organisations signing pledges, implementing training programmes and enhancing their initiatives towards creating better cultures, the clamour for change has never been louder. So why is it still so difficult for employees to be honest about their mental health?
When asked about whether there were one or two things that made a difference in his working environment, James Ski said: “Leadership, without a doubt”.
A business leader’s duty goes far beyond delegating workloads or tracking their team’s performance. Creating a team environment where their people feel valued, comfortable and supported without exception should be just as important. If business leaders and line managers take the first step towards providing this support, this will lead everyone to pull in the same direction. The more support they provide, the more people will open up, and the more awareness there will be within the organisation that talking about your health - be it mental or physical - is perfectly normal.
If you would like some more discussion around this article or to find out how we can help with your recruitment needs, please contact your local Page Executive team and one of our expert consultants will be in touch.