How do we continue the positive drive to battle mental health?

Our health and wellbeing lead business partner, Rebecca Eaton, shares her views about the workplace approach to mental health and why it's good to talk.

Everyday appears to be a day of something with a hashtag for this or that, in fact on the day of writing, it’s #nationalpieday! Some of these are clearly a bit of fun but others carry a lot more weight and deserve the attention they get. For example #BlueMonday and today is #Timetotalk day, both days associated with raising awareness on mental health, an issue that certainly deserves and needs the attention. In fact we need to make sure mental health gets this attention all year round.

A recent CityAM article by the Director of Inclusions and Diversity at Lloyds Banking Group highlights some pretty extraordinary statics on why mental health needs a focus. One in four of us are affected by a mental health issue in any given year, and the impact of mental health on workforces costs employers an estimated £26bn each year.

Time to talk day graphic

At United Utilities we have a workforce spread across a diverse mix of locations and roles. As an employee here you could be based up a mountain, at a desk, in an industrial site or out on the road and it shouldn’t matter where you’re based or what you do, everyone should feel able to talk about mental health if it affects them.

A few years ago, if I injured myself in the office I would be able to identify a first aider to help patch me up. There was no such help for mental health. Over the past year we have trained 16 people across the business to become mental health first aiders. They are supported by over 60 mental health supporters. We have also made access to physiological services for our employees, so they can early treatment and support.

Too many people with mental health problems are made to feel isolated, worthless and ashamed. Time to Talk Day is a chance for all of us to be more open about mental health. A chance to talk, to listen, to change lives.

Whereas most long journeys start with a single step, perhaps in the case of mental health most journeys begin with a single conversation. Today could be that day. Our wellbeing champions and Mental Health First Aiders will be setting up their own sessions to give people a chance to have a cup of tea and a talk.

Sometimes we can take strength from seeing other people go first. To that end four of our employees have recorded video messages that they are sharing with colleagues to help start the mental health conversation. Hopefully there will be more to follow their courageous example.

We should be able to talk about mental health anywhere. That’s why we are supporting #TimetoTalk and you should too.