We adjusted our approach to mental health and wellbeing after becoming a founder member of the City Mental Health Alliance (CMHA) in October 2013, and began aligning our own practices with the aims and philosophy of the CMHA. Since then we have made a great deal of progress on our mental wellbeing agenda, and our approach continues to be holistic, focusing on the link between good physical and mental health.
2016 was particularly busy. During Mental Health Awareness Week in May, we launched a disability and mental health network, ‘VisAbility’, which is designed to raise awareness and break down the stigma associated with disability and mental health issues in the workplace. The VisAbility network is an inclusive group, aimed not just at those people who are personally affected by disability and mental health issues, but also those who have friends, family or team members with a mental health issue, as well as people who are passionate about reducing stigma and sparking conversation around these topics. We already have over 100 members.
We asked our VisAbility members what they wanted from the network and the result is a series of ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions. So far, we’ve run sessions on ‘self-stigmatisation’, talking therapies, and addiction. They have been very well attended, the talking therapies session in particular attracting over 80 participants.
We used Diversity Week in September 2016 to launch our ‘This is Me’ campaign, a story-telling initiative in which members of our community shared their personal experiences of disability and mental health. Eight out nine of these stories related to mental health, with two partners, two lawyers and five business services people choosing to share their stories. As part of the campaign, we delivered a postcard each featuring a different story to the desks of everyone in the firm, encouraging people to look on the intranet for more information. We had over 900 hits within the first month.
Our ‘This is Me’ stories were varied. One person spoke about her husband who had had various addictions, another spoke about a period of depression and anxiety post bereavement, another talked about needing anti-depressants in order to deal with the pressure of looking after her ill father, another had a father with bipolar disorder, and another suffered a period of mental ill health after recovering from cancer. The participants received a very encouraging response from others in the firm, with emails saying how helpful they had found the stories.
In July 2016, after the UK voted to leave the EU, we ran a talk by clinical psychologist Bill Mitchell on ‘Dealing with change and uncertainty’. The talk was live in London, but we ran it as a webinar too so that people in our offices around the world could dial in. That was one of a series of monthly talks on different aspects of health and wellbeing, which we run in parallel to the VisAbility Lunch and Learn sessions. The monthly talks are very popular: among the best subscribed were a special presentation on resilience by former hostage John McCarthy and a talk on ways to free yourself from sugar.
We encourage our people to take responsibility for their own physical and mental health, and to use the support network of partners and leaders who are trained to recognise and address the signs of ill health. A number of our line managers are also qualified Mental Health First Aiders, and we are looking to train up more people over the coming year. Furthermore, because of the well-documented link between physical and mental health, we work closely with our in-house restaurant to ensure people have healthy choices – including doing very simple things like placing nuts in front of ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ sweets on the counter.
Even though it is difficult to quantify, our recent global engagement survey results showed that actions we have taken to improve health and wellbeing are having a positive effect on our people. This gives us the confidence to know that the work we are doing is making an impact.