Poppy Jaman, Programme Director for the CMHA, joined this year’s panel of experts and shares her views on what action is needed to ensure the mental health of our City workers is supported by each individual employer.
‘Stronger together’ was the key message from Michael Cole-Fontayn, EMEA Chairman BNY Mellon and our host for the CMHA Chair’s Breakfast on 23rd May.
Michael is right and our members continue to inspire me every day with the creative approaches they are adopting to meet our joint aims; creating openness around mental health, improving mental health literacy and taking practical steps to improve the mental health of our organisation. As Leader Member and Vice Chair of the Alliance Nigel Jones reflected, the rhetoric has significantly changed from our first event in 2013 from ‘why we should improve mental health of our organisations to ‘how can we improve the mental health of our organisation, what steps can we take to support people with MH and what is the call to action’.
We now have 36 fully active members and in my conversations with each of these, not once have I needed to present a business case for why mental health needs to become a board room agenda item. More often people have shared with me stories of individuals that they are supporting and sometimes sadly those that did not receive the appropriate support. In these cases organisations are taking responsibility and using these experiences to seek out solutions that are unique and culturally appropriate.. I believe this is the only way forward because one size certainly doesn’t fit all.
Mental health, like diversity and staff inclusion, is an issue that can be tackled most powerfully by employee led initiatives. There is no single solution to ensuring a mentally healthy organisation but engaging the whole organisation is a must if there is to be a shift in the right direction. We also need to accept that a person-centred approach should be adopted for real impact around preventing mental illness, and also when it comes to supporting someone who is experiencing mental health issues.
The Chair’s Breakfast also highlighted the consideration that many City firms are giving to mental health and wellbeing in relation to attracting, recruiting and retaining talented people to their organisations. The room felt united in its belief that new recruits are looking to join organisations who look after their staff’s wellbeing. It is essential that leaders, managers and colleagues take the time to find out what is happening in a person’s whole life, rather than just within working hours. With this level of understanding it is then possible to tailor appropriate support and enable people to fulfil their potential.
The CMHA is now a sustainable network and one which is achieving its aims, so much so that we are beginning cross border conversations. An early discussion is underway with an organisation in New York where we planning a leadership event to ‘think global, act local’. As CMHA non-executive member Beth Robotham of Bupa commented ‘Perhaps now we need to take the strategy to the next level and talk about what we can do to prevent mental illness in uncertain times. Political uncertainty around Europe and other economic factors can have an impact on people’s mental health and now seems the right time to think about how we can prevent people be adversely affected by putting safety measures in place.’
I mentioned earlier that amongst our members the business case is established and understood. In his keynote speech at the event, Michael shared some hard hitting facts around the cost of mental ill health to his organisation. Using this data and internal evaluation processes BNY Mellon will soon be launching a global strategy on mental health, more of which can be read about here. Michael was clear, putting mental health on the Boardroom agenda is vital to creating change.
Finally, Jeremy Connick Partner at Clifford Chance, shared with us his personal story. Jeremy lost his wife to suicide and he urged us all to think about how we engage with one another a. Creating a culture where asking a caring question is considered a life skill is vital is we are to even start to attempt to break the stigma of mental ill health. . We all need to feel confident in being able to ask ‘how are you?’ and when someone opens up we need to know how and where to signpost them to get the help they need. The result of such a conversation could save a life.