Today is Time to Talk Day, an initiative by Time to Change to get the nation talking about mental health and reducing some of the stigma around it. The idea is that by talking about mental health, we can show that conversations don’t have to be difficult.
It has always been a huge priority for me to respond positively, compassionately and flexibly to employees with mental health problems. I have personal experience of mental health issues in my family, which increased my understanding and, of course, it’s the right thing to do. But I’ve also seen the huge returns in terms of loyalty and productivity when people are able to expose their vulnerability around their mental health and be treated with respect.
That said, I have always felt my approach to be more reactive and when I joined Stonewall there were many reasons to do something more. The incidence of mental health problems in the LGBT community is much higher than the rest of the population and this increases for young LGBT people.
Stonewall signed the Time to Change Pledge in 2013 and last summer we joined a group of 60 Pledge Alumni to see how we could work with other employers to share and develop best practice around managing mental health and reducing discrimination at work. As project lead I was asked to recruit two Employee Champions to help develop the work but was overwhelmed with an amazing group of 16 volunteers who are all committed and working hard so that the mental wellbeing of everyone improves and that those who are struggling have all the resources they need and are supported by trained and confident managers.
We will celebrate Time to Talk Day by bringing mood-improving food to share at lunchtime, when one of our senior management team will talk about their lived experience, plus publicising some statistics on how many of us have experienced mental health problems and going for a walk along the Southbank with our part-time office dog. We’ll also be taking the time to ask each other ‘how are you?’
Small things, but we are starting to see changes. More frequently people are comfortable sharing their stories, they chat in the kitchen about using the counselling service we offer and share tips about keeping well.
Every time someone is able to talk openly about their mental health, whether they need some support or just because it’s a part of who they are, I feel incredibly proud that we are really living our values. We still have a lot to do but hopefully, today will take us a little closer to everyone feeling accepted.