Join the Mental Health Allies campaign
The Book of Man has teamed up with MediaCom to encourage workplaces around the UK to start a Mental Health Allies scheme. Because what we need is practical help for employees.
Work, work, work, don’t look up, don’t admit fear or anxiety, just work, work, work, and get things done, and don’t show that anything is getting to you, that you can’t cope, that you feel dread twisting your guts every time you walk that final stretch to the office, just keep up the work and hide the feelings of failure and weakness, bury them deep and keep up the front, work, work, work…
Maybe that’s not how it is for you, maybe work is fun and stimulating, and encourages your growth – maybe it’s the escape from all the other stuff going on in your life. But for a lot of people around the country the struggle with mental health is a daily battle, and one conducted in secret. And what has to remain unspoken has led to the problem growing:
- Over 300,000 people with mental health issues lose their jobs each year in the UK.
- 1 in 7 people experience mental health problems in the workplace.
- Mental health issues cost the economy over £35 billion a year.
- Rates of anxiety and depression among employees has risen by nearly a third since 2013.
Mental health in UK workplaces is a serious issue which has to be addressed. But what can practically be done about it to change things?
This is what we were wondering until we visited an organisation who’d introduced a beautifully simple scheme which was having a profound effect on their working environment.
Media agency MediaCom this year introduced a Mental Health Allies scheme in their London office. Beautifully simple, it involves voluntary staff members acting as Allies on the shop floor, there to listen as supportive peers about any mental health issues team members might be facing.
Because mental health at work is so ingrained as a taboo, it is hard to approach a boss with your issues for fear of being judged and losing your job. Generally people tend to hide their struggles at work, and simply bottle it up until they reach bursting point. This is the survival of the fittest conditioning still prevalent in most industries – if you have a mental health issue, you lose; you leave. But in the modern era, it’s not good enough for companies to allow this culture to prevail.
By having dedicated Allies amongst the team with no agenda but to listen and advise, it means there are friendly faces to help people through the anxieties we all face in the working world. Trained to listen, and signpost further help with mental health professionals, MediaCom’s Mental Health Allies have added a layer of support for staff which has made a huge difference to life in their building.
Nancy Lengthorn, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Future Talent at MediaCom says, “It’s a fact of life that people experience mental health issues. It’s happening whether we want it to or not. But by having Allies in place, we can help support people when they need it and we can help them to minimise the impact of their illness by pulling together. People have asked us why we see this as our responsibility. But it isn’t ethically or commercially sound not to have Allies in place. We’re helping to keep people in our business and giving them the opportunity to keep thriving, instead of being isolated and out of work.”
So impressive is their program, that we have teamed up with MediaCom to launch a Mental Health Allies campaign, where we’re going to encourage businesses of all types and size, to install a similar model.
The campaign aims to:
- Encourage companies around the country to provide more support for employees.
- Model their approach on Mediacom’s by adopting Mental Health Allies.
- Spread the word on mental health issues and these practical solutions.
- Make Mental Health Allies as integral to office life as First Aiders and Fire Wardens.
Pic: Avelon Thompson, one of MediaCom’s Mental Health Allies.
Over the next year we will be showcasing the Mental Health Allies scheme, providing resources and recommendations for implementing , and showcasing those who have signed up to it.
We will also be offering general advice on workplace well-being, as well as bringing in some famous faces for special events.
Let’s get practical and ethical support in every workplace to help every one of us.
If you are an employee, we want you to speak to your bosses about this scheme.
If you are a business, we want you to implement this scheme.
Show your support by using the #iamamentalhealthally tag.
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