THIS IS ME – Together we can end the stigma
Despite 1 in 4 people in the UK affected, the taboo and stigma of mental health issues is crippling.
Society’s reaction both real or perceived to those affected by mental health problems, means that millions of people live and suffer with it in silence, affecting both their work and home lives.
The impact is significant on not only the individual struggling but also their friends, families and work colleagues.
We all deal with stress at work, but for one person in every three, it can become unmanageable- for many they will have struggled for years until they end up collapsing- it is their body and or mind saying no more.
Samaritans tell us that they receive a call for help every 6 seconds, responding to an incredible 6 million calls annually
However, because mental health is shrouded in stigma, the majority of all those experiencing a mental health problem do not discuss it with their line manager, fearing reprisal, judgments and discrimination.
Moreover, for thousands, things can become unmanageable, and tragically three times more people die by suicide than road traffic accidents. It is also now the leading course of death for men under 50 and for women aged 20-34
All of this is preventable, and The City had an ambition to ensure that in the future no one feels that they have to suffer in silence anymore and can reach out for support before they feel too overwhelmed. But how could this be achieved was the BIG question?
We have seen how much focus has been put on physical health and campaigns and interventions to address it, but there was nothing out there for mental health.
The solution - This is Me - was discovered in just 2 minutes!
I heard the inspiring David Caldwell from Barclays Bank talk for about 2 minutes about an internal initiative that they had run called This is Me which had 6 colleagues make a short 2 minute video sharing their story of their mental health challenges and how it affects them but also showing that their mental health was just one aspect of them, they were also a father, a mother, a branch manager, work in HR, love yoga or play football.
A few conversations later with David, we convened a team of experts to collaborate, from Mind, City Mental Health Alliance, Business Healthy and City AM.
We partner with some big names in the market including Barclays, Business Healthy, City Mental Health Alliance and Mind. All these organisations emphasize the importance of our campaign as it encourages employees who have experienced mental health problems to share their stories with colleagues through storytelling within their own organisation. Other ideas include introducing flexible hours, job-redesign and addressing negative workplace dynamics.
The (longer term) ambition
Was to get one million people talking about mental health. to break down barriers, to encourage people to seek help and save lives.
The Collaboration in progress
The idea was to create a campaign to inspire a citywide collaboration uniting the business community to be a part of helping to end this stigma once and for all to help create better mental health for all employees.
Building on the initial concept pioneered by Barclays, we created This is me – in the City a Citywide and beyond campaign to tackle the stigma around mental health by encouraging employees to share their experiences of mental health with their colleagues through storytelling.
Subsequently the Royal Prince Harry and William have shared their personal stories through sharing their experience and struggles with mental health as part of the fantastic Heads Together initative and the CEO of Lloyds Bank António Horta-Osório also shared his story
The objectives of the This is Me in the City Campaign were to:
Transform workplace cultures to reduce mental health stigma
Talk about fears and insecurities
Dispel myths about mental health and personal well-being
Implement polices to address mental health in the workplace
To support this, the team collaborating created a comprehensive how to guide, broken down into advice for employers which was collated by Barclays and Mind drafted the how to keep employees’ safe section. We also ran a number of engagement events and focused workshops to help companies that were committed to addressing the issue but felt they would benefit from some support
We arranged an initial engagement event, providing the opportunity for David Caldwell and Barclays to inspire attendees with their journey and its impact and hoped as a pilot 20 companies would attend of which we would want a minimum of 6 to run their This is Me campaign amongst their staff, which would then give us more evidence and the foundation to build on.
An amazing 60 companies attended the initial engagement and following other promotional activity in only the first year (8 months after it was launched)
- 75 companies directly approached us to register their interest
- 22 of which companies ran the initiative internally, with their own employees sharing their stories
- Reaching 400,000 employees in the UK
”Absolutely incredible- of all the diversity campaign we have run, this has had the most impact. People would frequently stop me in the lift, corridor or canteen to talk about it. It raised awareness and opened an entirely new dialogue. It also made people proud to work for the firm” (Global Law Firm lead)
”Unbelievable- This is Me was the second most visited site on our intranet ever It has definitely changed how we look at and talk about mental health” (Deutsche Bank lead).
”Thank you so much for doing this, the people sharing their own stories have shown me that there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel” (PWC employee)
As can be seen, this had really started to change the narrative amongst employee in these companies. The success of this campaign then led to two further new initiatives to address mental health in the workplace and beyond- look out for further articles on the Green Ribbon Campaign and Wellbeing in the City (which I will share in future blogs)
The inspiring number of organisations being so proactive shows the impact of THIS IS ME campaign, with 83% of them saying it has had a positive impact and the results have inspired an increase in conversations about mental health in their workplace, as well as some reporting the number of absenteeism and sickness has greatly improved as has productivity amongst its workforce
It really has been the catalyst that has helped transform workplace cultures around mental health and drastically improve the mental wellbeing of employees.
Please do get in touch if you would like to know more about this initiative or how we can help create one for you