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Wednesday 10th October 2018 marks World Mental Health Day. First celebrated in 1992 as an initiative by the World Federation for Mental Health, the day promotes global recognition for mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.

Research by Deloitte suggests that up to five million people in the UK could have a mental health condition. One way or another, it is an issue that affects us all. Businesses are beginning to wake up to the challenge, with the help of initiatives like ‘Time for Change’ and the increase in a more open dialogue around overall workplace wellbeing and mental ill health in general.

To get a better understanding what businesses are now doing to support mental health in the workplace, leaders from a variety of organisations and sectors share their thoughts on the importance of breaking the stigma and making genuine change.

Service provider OCS Group works at the frontline of society every day. CEO Bob Taylor explained: “Our colleagues often work unsociable hours in sometimes difficult and pressurised circumstances. A focus on wellbeing is therefore important to do the right thing for our colleagues and to give the best to our clients. The nature of the facilities management industry sometimes means overcoming geographical and communication challenges to reach those on the frontline. But with focus and innovative technology, we now have the opportunity to do more than ever before.”

Angela Love, Director at Active Workplace Solutions, believes mental wellbeing is a crucial part of working life that companies must invest serious effort into: “While there is no definitive guide for mental health in the workplace, supporting your employees’ wellbeing should remain a top-level consideration. Without people there is no business, so workplaces should facilitate interpersonal connection – for example, break-out areas and dedicated collaboration spaces help to avoid feeling isolated and voluntary work can be a powerful and satisfying activity that is dually beneficial.” 

Lisa Hamill, UK People Director at global facilities management company, Atalian Servest, believes it is important to look outside of your organisation at what others are doing to champion mental health. She said: “With depression now thought to be the number one illness around the world according to the World Health Organisation, businesses need to provide the support their people need. Promote wellbeing and treat colleagues with respect and care. Consider the fact you, or elements of ‘work’, could be part of the cause. After all, work is one of the main causes for stress, anxiety and depression, so make sure the right support is available.”

Andrew Hulbert, Managing Director at Pareto FM attests that positive mental wellbeing at work starts and ends with culture. “Establishing and maintaining a positive culture needs to be proactive. As a business leader, or line manager, it’s important to lead by example and make yourself available. The channels your employees can take to raise any concerns they might have need to be established early on, when someone joins the company, and reminded of further down the line. Our mental health is so important, and it can be affected by so many factors, especially in today’s ‘always on’ world,” he said.

Dale Thompson, Director of Human Resources at contract caterer Vacherin, believes mental health is an issue that should be out in the open. “The more openly we talk about it, the less stigma it will carry. Everyone needs a healthy work-life balance. Holidays and time off should be actively encouraged to maintain good mental health. The positive effects of a team with strong personal relationships and regular socialising opportunities go a long way to creating a culture of support at work. In some cases, however, this isn’t enough, so employee programmes offering confidential advice to employees and their families, who might be struggling, is something we take seriously. We only have one workforce and it’s important we look after them the very best we can.”

Clowns Without Borders UK is a charity that performs for children in areas crisis all over the globe, Director, Sam Holdsworth, said: “Laughter is a stabilising force, whether it’s between children in a refugee camp, friends sharing a meal or with our co-workers over coffee. It is essential to mental health and wellbeing, regardless of where we are or our situation. Being able to laugh together allows us to truly see someone, to connect and to bond, to gain perspective. It encourages us to assess a situation from different angles.”

Whether in a business environment or not, support and education around mental health is critical for social development and wellbeing. 

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