Wednesday 11 May 2016 4:25 am

This is Me: How Barclays is breaking mental health stigma – and the rest of the City can too

Tom Welsh is City A.M.'s business features editor.

Tom Welsh is City A.M.'s business features editor.

Since 2013, Barclays has been working to raise awareness of mental health in the workplace through our campaign “This is Me”. As part of our ambition to be the most accessible and inclusive bank, it is important to Barclays that colleagues can be themselves at work. Addressing the cultural silence around mental health was fundamental to achieving this goal – one in six workers experience mental health issues which often leads to stigma and discrimination.

“This is Me” set out to tackle the lack of understanding about how to best support colleagues with mental health issues, as well as a hesitancy to speak out about the topic itself. As a result of this global campaign, Barclays has seen a real shift towards a different cultural tone around managing and supporting colleague wellbeing.

The campaign was driven and designed by colleagues with personal experience of managing their own mental health and wellness. Barclays has a very active disability network, Reach, committed to helping the business become an even more disability confident organisation. Reach members were the motivation and inspiration for the campaign and were featured in the stories that brought it to life.

The campaign was built on their experiences and has a three-fold approach. First, it features the authentic stories of colleagues talking about their lives including their own mental health and wellness. They record and edit these on film and in writing, and through an internal communications drive the stories are shared with Barclays colleagues.

Second, the campaign focuses on improving the basics – identifying and addressing areas for improvement, for example through manager training and policy reviews. Third, Barclays made an external commitment to breaking the stigma related to mental health issues by signing the Time to Change pledge, demonstrating a sustainable commitment to mental health and wellness.

As a result of the response from other businesses, Barclays has partnered with the Lord Mayor’s Appeal, Mind, Business Healthy and the City Mental Health Alliance on “This is Me in the City”. This collaboration aims to scale up awareness of mental health and reduce stigma in the workplace by engaging businesses across the City of London.

Barclays is keen to share what we have learnt. It is clear that authentic story-telling truly engages people and, when led by colleagues, it leads to real inclusion and builds a sense of trust. However daunting it may seem at the start, this approach encourages more people to speak out about their own experiences. Strong leadership and support from well-informed charity partners has proved to be invaluable.

From just nine stories, the campaign has grown and now over 160 stories have been shared. There have been more than 60,000 visits to the website and a 4 per cent increase in self-identification to 7 per cent in just two years. The campaign has been launched across South Africa and the US, explaining why mental health matters to Barclays and encouraging more colleagues to become confident in telling their story.

As Caroline explains below, “This is Me” has changed lives and given a voice to an important subject that touches everyone.

A senior manager in Barclays’ retail business, Caroline says: “I work in marketing and love its fast pace and creativity. I love yoga and having fun with my friends. I have had depression for 20 years and think it’s really important to open up the subject matter and make it easier to discuss in the workplace without any kind of stigma. My line manager was amazing. Sometimes it’s difficult to identify tangible things that can be done to help, but just knowing they support you and will give you the time you need to take to heal is the best support there is. My top tip: keep time for you – 30 minutes walking at lunch really helps to clear your mind.”

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.