We aim to train up a lot of our staff in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), and we were proud to hit the 500 mark this year. People are queuing up to do the training, which is very good news. There’s real enthusiasm: people who’ve done it often stop me in the corridor and rave about it.
Our Mental Health Network is also going from strength to strength. It is one of seven employee-run internal working groups (Ability EY) that cover a range of disabilities. We have an associated buddy scheme, which links together people who have experienced, or are experiencing, similar challenges that are affecting, or could affect, their mental health. People help each other with a wide range of issues, from mental health conditions, bereavement, miscarriage and stillbirth, to gender identity and other diversity issues, to being a carer.
We recently won an award – ‘Best Mental Health Resilience Strategy’ – from Employee Benefits magazine. Our mental health strategy is called ‘Thinking Differently’, and it covers everything from awareness and prevention through to treatment, cure and re-assimilation into work. The MHFA work and the Mental Health Network are important elements of it.
We introduced MHFA as a way of improving literacy around mental health, in order to reduce the stigma and encourage culture change. Our prevention work falls under the banner ‘Thrive’, and centres around webinars and office-based events throughout the year. We’ve run sessions on, for example, sleep, eating, CBT and resilience, because, of course, physical and mental health are linked.
We are very keen to create parity between physical and mental health, and the reason we set up Thinking Differently as a distinct mental health strand was to highlight the importance we attach to good mental health. Our overall strategy for the firm is ‘Health EY’, and we deliberately describe it as our ‘health, mental health and wellbeing approach’, rather than a ‘health and wellbeing strategy’ as others do.
Psychological care is one of four care pathways we have established for people. Referral to Occupational Health is one aspect of this pathway, but there is a self-care route for employees not wanting to use this. We have also established a new fast-track psychiatric pathway to our healthcare insurance provider to enable employees with acute symptoms to access psychological care through Occupational Health as well as the more usual GP route.
Increasingly, we are embedding the mental health initiatives under Thinking Differently into the organisation through training, induction, Talent, job roles and responsibilities.
Being part of the CMHA allows us to contribute to changing things for the better across the City. We have shifted attitudes, but there is lots more work to be done. For example, I think that we need to focus harder on analytics in order to better understand the impact of what we are doing. We also need to work harder at embedding preventative strategies. We are addressing the stigma problem and providing support for people who are ill, but there is a gap when it comes to teaching people resilience and giving them skills to help them look after their own mental health.
I would also like to see EAPs replaced says Amy McKeown. In many companies they are just counselling services bolted on by insurance providers, and act as little more than sticking plasters. I would replace them with hand-picked psychologists and psychiatrists with a range of different skills, who can properly diagnose and triage people who come to them for help.