Three out of every five employees have experienced mental health issues due to work, or where work was a contributing factor[i]. Wellbeing in the City, the ground breaking emotional support programme developed by Samaritans, is available online for everyone and anyone. Supported by The Lord Mayor’s Appeal as part of the This is Me campaign, the e-learning tool is bringing expertise in emotional wellbeing free to the workforce, giving employees the skills and confidence to help themselves and others, creating a network of support.
Charlotte’s story below demonstrates why this tool is so vitally important:
I’m a wife, step mother, daughter, sister and grandmother to four beautiful grandchildren.
My two-year-old Cockapoo Benji has taken over my life.
I love to get lost in a good book.
I have a passion for baking and I enjoy overseas travel.
I also live with clinical anxiety and depression.
I love a good plan, but I can’t plan for when that knot in my stomach and pounding heart will stop me from functioning. Over the years I have, however, learnt to notice the signs.
I’ll confidently challenge stakeholders during change projects, however become overwhelmed when trying to capture succinctly my thoughts.
I’m a successful coach and project lead, but I over analyse and become paranoid that my supportive colleagues think I’m bad at my job.
I start to convince myself that I don’t know what I’m doing. It spirals, I become overwhelmed, I visibly panic, I sweat, become argumentative and extremely over sensitive.
What I really need in those irrational moments is for someone to ask me if I’m okay. To remind me that it’s okay not to be okay. And to listen.
Back in June 2017, I was embarrassed about my anxiety and depression. Months before I’d had another breakdown at work. It left me sat in a booth, sobbing, gasping for breath and paralysed with fear. It took me over an hour to compose myself sufficiently to move.
That’s over 60 minutes trying to hide the fact my make-up made me look like a panda, my eyes were red raw and that I really could have done with a tissue to wipe my nose.
The booth was next to an open plan coffee point. No one spoke to me, but I bet more than a dozen people saw me. I know for certain the person who I was having a meeting with saw me. After all, I had to ask her to stop our meeting mid-way through, seeing as my shaking, sweating and sobbing left me unable to concentrate.
I don’t blame her for not saying anything. She was probably feeling uncomfortable or feared making me feel worse. The dozen or so other people no doubt were either more concerned about grabbing a drink before their next call, rushing off to the toilet or simply didn’t know what to say.
Who can blame them? I don’t. Would you genuinely know what to say? Could you be confident your colleagues would say something?
Being in complete denial that anything was wrong, I simply brushed myself off, didn’t say anything to a soul and carried on.
The signs were there, I was on a roller coaster which was rapidly speeding towards a black hole. If someone hadn’t intervened the following week, the outcome could well have been very different.
I’d travelled to Edinburgh to facilitate a negotiation skills workshop. It went well, I was feeling pleased at how well the session had landed. I was tired, drained by the early starts, two days on my feet and being away from home. I decided to travel early to the airport, to grab dinner and relax before my 9pm flight. All was well.
And then I checked my emails. Stepping in last minute to facilitate meant pulling out of a business unit meeting my booth colleague asked me to attend. All was explained earlier in the week. However, she’d mentioned her dissatisfaction to a peer of mine – who emailed me to tell me how disappointed they were in my behaviour, how I’d let the team down and asked how I was going to put it right.
It was like a switch had been flicked.
The hustle and bustle of the airport went, the hands started to shake, the heart raced, the knot in my stomach appeared. I went blank, my only thoughts were of how useless I was, how things would be better if I wasn’t here, that ending it all was the only option.
I hadn’t noticed the airport emptying, or heard the last call for my plane. But what I did see was the flight attendant kneel in front of me and ask me if I was okay. She listened and showed she cared.
Had my work colleagues had the confidence and knowledge to intervene weeks before, things could have turned out so much better. With a little bit of insight and understanding, I’m sure someone would have done.
That’s where Wellbeing in the City fits in. Samaritans and Lord Mayor’s Appeal had a vision to promote and improve the emotional wellbeing of UK employees. The Wellbeing in the City resources bring this vision to life.
For me, if Wellbeing in the City saves just one life and encourages more people to approach someone showing signs of distress it will be a success.
Wellbeing in the City has already been accessed by over 2,000 individuals from across 250 organisations and the impact is clear:
- 93% of users agree it has helped them to recognise emotional distress in others
- 93% now recognise the importance of looking after their own wellbeing
- 90% now feel more confident approaching someone in emotional distress
- 91% say they will be able to apply the skills they have learned in their everyday life
One user commented, “The training was fantastic and very real. I shared it with my team and the wider business during Mental Health Awareness Week as I believe the content could genuinely change (and possibly save) lives.”
Wellbeing in the City consists of two interactive online programmes created specifically for office workers: Samaritans Active Listening Skills and Samaritans Wellbeing Toolkit. One takes around 60 minutes to complete, the other approximately 30 and both can be accessed in short sections of around 10 minutes or less.
[i]Business in the Community. (2017) Mental Health at Work Report 2017. London: Business in the Community.