#TriggerWarning – This post contains reference to being at “crisis point”. Please seek professional help if you are affected by this post.
The second post in the My Mental Health Experience series is by Nick Baber.
Two years ago I came out of the closet about my depression to all of our 13,000 employees at work via a four page article in our staff magazine.
At the time I had no idea what the reaction would be like, as like many other people, I work in a fast paced, competitive and often highly pressurised environment.
I needn’t have worried though as the outpouring of positive comments and support from above was pretty humbling, and for me it set the wheels in motion for a very interesting period of my career and indeed a journey of personal discovery.
Despite being someone who has often looked at the world in glass half empty terms, I’m beginning to realise that as a firm we’ve made a huge amount of progress since the article was published.
We’ve set up a social media site where staff can share articles, helpful coping techniques or how they’re feeling. We’ve celebrated Time To Talk Day, Mental Health Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day and have held a number of high profile internal events which have really got people talking about mental health. We’ve also set up an employee network which has very quickly grown to over 600 members and we’ve started to provide training to staff in people leadership roles.
In simple terms, because people are now talking about it, more of them are accessing the great support being provided, and importantly they’re doing so before they get to crisis point. I know this because of the number of colleagues who have sought me, and others, out in confidence to ask for help or advice.
That said, for every good story I hear, there are several not so good ones, so I’m under no illusion that there is a long way to go. But we’ve reached a kind of tipping point where it’s no longer something that can’t be discussed openly.
I would also say that it can’t be one sided. While businesses are accountable for the welfare of their employees, individuals themselves need to take responsibility for their own mental health in the same way they do with their physical health.
So what have I learnt over the last couple of years? The three key things for me are:
- You need senior role models to start the ball rolling as it gives permission to everyone else to talk about how they’re feeling. We started with two and we now have over a dozen people who have shared their own stories openly.
- You need a safe and supportive environment, so organisational culture is massively important. The role models won’t come out and talk if they’re fearful of a negative impact on their careers, so tone from the top is critical – in my case our Senior Partner went on record and said he wanted everyone to be able to bring their whole selves to work.
- You need easily accessible tools, training and support networks to empower individuals and line managers to get whatever help they need proactively rather than reactively. We’ve sign posted this to staff and regularly communicate where people can find it.
My personal opinion is that the more we talk about mental health, the faster we will break down the stigma, and businesses have an important part to play in this process as they empower their staff to be at their best more often.
If you enjoyed hearing about Nick’s experience, you can follow him on Twitter – @n1ckbab3r.