This is Me: Let’s talk about mental health to end the stigma in the City

Paul Farmer
Stephen Fry
Staff who might be struggling should feel able to speak about their problems and know that, if they do, they’ll be met with understanding and support, rather than stigma and discrimination (Source: Getty)

Today may be World Mental Health Day, but if you’re an employer, or indeed an employee, mental health should always be top of your agenda.

Stress and poor mental health in the workplace are commonplace. Last week, a survey by Business in the Community and YouGov, supported by Mind, revealed that 62 per cent of employees had experienced poor mental health where work was a contributing factor.

Most of us will be exposed to some level of stress in our roles, but there are things both staff and employers can do to tackle its causes and minimise its impact. In small doses, pressure can be healthy – it can increase productivity and help us meet deadlines, for example. But prolonged pressure can lead to unmanageable stress which can negatively impact our physical and mental health – with huge implications for employers.

Read more: Stress in the City: Let’s move beyond stigmas

Frequently cited causes of stress include an excessive workload, long hours and unreasonable targets. Many of these factors will be all too familiar to those who work in the City, where the high pressure culture can put employees at greater risk of experiencing problems with their mental health.

Thankfully, City employers are increasingly acknowledging the importance of creating a “mentally healthy” workplace, and Mind is working with a range of businesses to help them do this, by tackling the work-related causes of stress and poor mental health, supporting and promoting the wellbeing of all staff, and putting in place measures to support those in your workforce who are experiencing a mental health problem.

In the past 10 years, Mind has seen swathes of employers across sectors engage with us and begin to take positive steps to create a culture where mental health is spoken about openly and honestly. More recently, we saw the creation of the City Mental Health Alliance in 2013– a major landmark representing a real shift in City employer attitudes towards making staff wellbeing a priority issue.

Staff who might be struggling should feel able to speak about their problems and know that, if they do, they’ll be met with understanding and support, rather than stigma and discrimination. “This is Me – in the City” is one such initiative, a pioneering City-wide mental health campaign, aimed at reducing stigma.

Read more: This is Me: How Barclays is breaking mental health stigma

Initiated and led by The Lord Mayor’s Appeal in partnership with Barclays, Business Healthy, City Mental Health Alliance and Mind, “This is Me – in the City” gives staff a platform to talk about their own experiences of poor mental health at work. So far, 75 organisations have registered an interest, including many City institutions, like the Bank of England, Herbert Smith Freehills and Transport for London.

Over 20 organisations are now actively participating. It can be daunting for employees to openly talk about mental health which is why there’s a role for HR professionals, line managers, and senior staff in taking the first step. Businesses taking part send a signal to their staff that they take this issue seriously and recognise that mental health problems can affect anyone, regardless of their role or seniority. “This is Me – in the City” has potentially reached over 420,000 employees.

As a business, prioritising workplace wellbeing is not only the right thing to do as a responsible employer, but also makes business sense. Staff working for firms that proactively support their wellbeing are more likely to be productive, engaged, loyal and deliver the best outcomes for your business. They are less likely to take time off sick due to stress and poor mental health.

Read more: £554 lost per worker for ignoring workplace wellbeing

Above all, it’s important to encourage an inclusive and supportive workplace – one where your workforce feel able to talk openly about their mental health at work and know that, if and when they do, they’ll be met with support, rather than stigma and discrimination. Employers who do feel able to come forward when they’re struggling are more likely to be supported to seek help sooner. And we know that people who start getting help earlier on have better chances of making a full recovery.

If you’ve experienced poor mental health or stress at work, join the growing numbers of employees and employers getting involved with “This is Me – in the City” by sharing your story, and urge your colleagues to do the same.

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