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Mental health in the workplace

We’ve worked hard on raising awareness – now let’s find practical solutions

That awkward moment when your colleague walks out of the office in tears and, English to the core, heads down, everyone pretends they haven’t noticed. And then she comes back in with swollen eyes yet still, no one approaches her to ask what’s wrong or if there’s anything they can do to help. Why do we pretend nothing’s wrong? We’re not cold or heartless, nor is she a stranger to us, but we’re scared. Terrified. Frightened that she may be upset by an emotional issue, or worse, a mental health problem. If she had sprained her ankle or trapped her finger in the door, everyone would have rushed to her side, but why can’t we cope with helping people with their feelings?

Physical problems can be solved but matters of the mind….it’s something that many of us can’t cope with because we don’t understand it. It’s not unique to British culture but it’s certainly more prevalent here than in many other countries. We simply don’t feel comfortable talking about mental health, and until that changes, our embarrassment and indifference will continue to prove a dangerous barrier to improving the lives of those we care about. Dangerous may feel like a melodramatic word, but it’s a fact. A kind word or reassuring smile to those suffering from low self-esteem or depression can make the difference between a good day and a bad day. And a bad day for someone facing mental health challenges can be pretty rough.

The road to enlightenment about mental health problems in the workplace is a long one. But identifying colleagues that you’re worried about, and talking to them, making them feel comfortable around you and showing support, is a really amazing start. And we’re here to help. Heard the one about the guy who was about to throw himself off Waterloo Bridge when a total stranger saved his life? Yep, that’s us. Neil and Jonny. The guys who go around the country talking to businesses about the best ways to spot colleagues in trouble and offer them support. A decade after fate thrust us together we have found ourselves as well established ‘mental health in the workplace’ experts. Together with Zoe Sinclair of Employees Matter, we’ve decided to consolidate our experience with a one-day conference in London, where expert speakers will address delegations from corporates across various sectors, about mental health at work. We will be having conversations that haven’t happened before, answering nitty-gritty questions about the role of technology in relation to our mental health, suicide, and other urgent and relevant subjects. 

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This Can Happen was a game changer for me. I left feeling inspired and energised, armed with practical advice and best-in-class case studies about how to create mentally healthy workplaces.

Nick Jemetta, Chair – Mental Health & Wellbeing Group, Sainsburys