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Last week saw the 6th, and final, breakfast of 2018 with our “Creating Mentally Healthy Workplaces” event sponsored and hosted by BNY Mellon. This ever popular subject saw 70 attendees come together to hear from Accenture, BNY Mellon and Pinsent Masons, and to hear Rob Collin’s personal story of having had a conversation with a person in emotional distress. The morning was chaired by Lorraine Heggessey of The Royal Foundation, who shared research showing that 1/3 of employees don’t know where to go for support with mental ill health, and only 2% of respondents would go to HR if they needed help. This goes some way to explain the 300, 000 people who lose their jobs every year due to mental ill health leading to an inability to cope at work.

The Lord Mayor Alderman Charles Bowman opened by painting a picture of hope – things are changing. In particular he shared the progress The Lord Mayor’s Appeal’s This is Me initiative has made. Since its launch, 550 organisations have registered, and in 2018 we’ve seen This is Me North West and This is Me Scotland launch. What’s more – we know that it’s working. 100% of organisations surveyed believe their This is Me campaigns has made a positive impact on changing attitudes towards mental health, increased the number of conversations around mental health, and helped dispel myths.

Our speakers shared practical tips and experiences to help attendees keep the momentum going to #endthestigma and better support employees. Mikahla Chapman shared how Accenture has a holistic mental health strategy that focuses on 3 areas (rather than just waiting for a crisis) – prevention, intervention and management. Their 1500 mental health allies in the UK have been vital to bringing this strategy to life, and they keep them engaged through monthly learning calls and getting them involved in awareness raising events such as time to talk day. They’re now launching across the globe – focussing on it as a people issue rather than a cultural one bound by geography.

Rob Collins spoke about how everyone can champion mental wellbeing in some way by just being human and offering support to someone they notice in need. He shared how Bank of England have used Samaritans’ Wellbeing in The City tool to educate about signs and symptoms and help people develop the active listening skills to feel more confident entering those conversations.

Jonathan Bond from Pinsent Masons talked about how mental ill health is particularly prevalent in the legal sector – law students are twice as likely to suffer from mental health problems as medical students. He shows a preview of the Mindful Business Charter they have created alongside clients to provide clarity around deadlines, to try and change the underlying systemic issues and cultural practices that can contribute to mental ill health.

Jonathan also shared that their single most successful This is Me storytelling film featured senior leaders – something that in the past would have been considered career suicide. He advised companies to find their most respected people - it’s guaranteed there will be people who have experienced mental ill health within them – and to work with them to get them to the point where they feel comfortable to share. Similar stories were seen at BNY Mellon, where Phil Canale shared that the films they had shared had spawned a lot of other activities such as awareness raising events; and had a transformative positive effect on the employees who took part - in how they were perceived by their colleagues, and the company.

Our chair Lorraine closed the session by asking attendees to do 3 simple things: complete the Wellbeing in the City training, look through Mind and The Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health at Work Gateway (www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk); and share both in your networks.