Pen’s Perspective On… mental health awareness, resilience and having open conversations
Published On : 12 May 2021
BY TOM DOWNEY
As we look forward to society opening up further next week, with restrictions lifting and in-person collaboration returning to in the workplace, BIBA 2021’s theme of ‘Strengthening Resilience’ is an apt one, coinciding as it does with Mental Health Awareness Week.
Never has there been a more important time to ensure we keep mental well-being at the top of the corporate agenda on Inclusion. To tackle the inevitable challenges ahead, we all need to build on and evolve our personal and organisational resilience by equipping ourselves with the new skills and tools, insights and understanding, both personally and professionally.
As a case in point, ‘mental health in a post-pandemic landscape’ is a topic BIBA itself is exploring this week in a dedicated discussion session. And this is absolutely the time to be building on all that we have learnt during this most difficult of years, rather than presume mental good health will be a given as ‘normal life’ returns.
Because although the year-long pressures of living through a pandemic will have exacerbated existing mental health challenges for some, and brought new ones to others, it has also brought positives when it comes to mental well-being and how we approach it in the workplace.
Awareness has been heightened, conversations have been brought to the fore and the signposting to support, resources and shared experiences for colleagues has become more prominent.
In addition to my role as CEO of Pen Underwriting, I’m also incredibly proud to be Gallagher’s Executive Sponsor of Inclusion & Diversity here in the UK, where mental well-being is one of five core workstreams.
The Mental Health Foundation defines the “essential building block” of workplace mental health in particular as being “the ability to have open, authentic conversations” about this important issue “both individually and at a strategic level”.
We couldn’t agree more.
Supporting each other to have the confidence to speak out and have those “open, authentic conversations” is what formed the basis of our hugely impactful ‘Smash the Stigma’ campaign.
Over the past year, this campaign has seen a significant number of courageous colleagues, from right across the UK and every level of the organisation, bravely share their own personal stories via video and articles with our wider UK population.
Those stories have been many and varied, detailing colleagues’ own mental health challenges or those experienced by those they are closest to. They are in turn intensely moving, insightful and inspiring about a diverse and delicate issue that many still struggle to speak openly about.
This Mental Health Awareness Week, five of those colleagues have courageously gone a step further by going public and sharing their stories with a global audience via social media – and all with the universal aim of breaking down the stigma of mental health to ensure everyone feels able to speak out and seek help when they need it most.
So as we all look forward to restrictions lifting and society opening up, let’s keep talking about mental health.
The more we talk, the more we normalise an issue that even before the pandemic was prevalent, with NHS statistics suggesting one in four adults and one in 10 children experience mental illness.
And by normalising mental health in the same way we do physical health we will help eradicate any associated stigma, and make sure both our colleagues and those we are closest to know that support is only a conversation away.