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How can businesses facilitate conversations around mental health?

Written by Steph Milledge, Senior People Manager
Posted in: Culture

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world into a sudden state of physical distancing back in 2020, the ensuing isolation shone a light on the fragility of mental health.

Separated from friends, family and the routine distractions of normal life, people became vulnerable, and a survey by Mind last year found that one third of adults felt their mental health had deteriorated since March 2020.

The pandemic kicked open the doors to a mental health crisis; and the response from brands was unified, widespread solidarity. The past 24 months have seen a flurry of campaigns urging people to talk more, check in on their friends, and stop making excuses for taking time out to look after themselves.

The conversation around mental health has seemingly never been so open, but it’s not enough to simply talk about talking. To really make a difference for their employees, brands and businesses need to facilitate these conversations.

For years, the World Health Organisation has been campaigning for mental health to be treated on par with physical health, and this year’s theme for World Mental Health Day – ‘Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority’ – puts the ownership on the government and corporations to provide necessary support.

At Brandwidth, our team of Mental Health First Aiders provide a safe space for people that are struggling to communicate their feelings and give ongoing support to those who need it. We spoke to the team to find out how they’re making a difference.

Stephanie Milledge – Senior People Manager & Mental Health First Aider  

Engaging, retaining, and preventing employee burnout and absenteeism are all dependent on workplace wellbeing, so the business case is clear. However, when it comes to people, the most important metric of all is health and the greatest lesson we can learn and apply is to be human. It was important to me to take the MHFA training to raise awareness and help to break the stigma surrounding mental health, as well as to better understand and support our team. In order to empower people to be their true and best selves, we place a focus on mental health to support and encourage an inclusive culture that listens and leads with a human approach.

Laura Rinati – Producer & Mental Health First Aider 

Mental health is just as important as physical health, but it’s often not addressed as such, that is why I am so proud to be part of the Brandwidth team. It’s so easy to feel lonely, overwhelmed, and anxious, and the inability to speak about it and the stigma around it can make us feel even more isolated. Having someone to talk about it in a safe space, and having access to coping tools, it’s definitely a great start. It’s an honour to be able to offer support, strategies and advice for my colleagues’ wellbeing.

Anonymous Testimonial 

So far, whenever I was challenged by life’s curveballs I was not left alone. The Mental Health First Aider often checked in with me and offered time to chat and listen. I have also seen other Mental Health first aiders being supportive and responsive when seeing a person in trouble. This is really motivating, especially in the toughest time as it helps people to see beyond sticky points, recalibrate, and change perspective. The listening part is also a big one as holding space with one another is crucial in the validation of different outlooks. (A curious thing, the words “listen” and “silent” share the same set of letters!) I am grateful that I work with such a great team.

Anonymous Testimonial  

It’s always good to have someone to talk to – so having access to MHFA’s like ours is brilliant. The next stage is more difficult – when you need to contact GP’s and 3rd parties – so at the moment I am joining groups online for more guidance and self help.

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