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  • Kat Hounsell

Let's keep the mental health conversation going for longer than just a week


Today is the last working day of Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 however I've got a strong gut feeling that this year is different. I'm sensing that the mental health initiatives within organisations are just beginning, not coming to a close. Thinking back over my week I've collated four pieces of evidence to back up my intuition.

1) Political parties are putting mental health high on their agendas

In addition to pledging legislative change to the Health at Work Act, the Conservative party also announced that if it remained in government, it would increase the level of funding already committed to training Youth Mental Health First Aid Champions in every secondary school and expand the budget to reach every primary schools too.

With the general election coming up both the Green Party and Liberal Democrats have also been forthcoming with their pledges in the field of Mental Health. It's promising stuff.

The future? I'd like to see one where all schools and organisations have as many trained Mental Health First Aiders as they do physical first aiders.

Parity of esteem between mental and physical health is one our long-terms goals, so to see political leaders making commitments to this directly and in the form of investment pledges is really encouraging - Poppy Jaman, CEO MHFA England

2) People in the public eye are speaking out, including the Royals

If you haven't yet heard Prince Harry sharing his story of near breakdown then I highly recommend the 27 minute listen on Bryony May's Mad World Podcast. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have joined forces with Harry to get the nation talking about mental health through their initiative Heads Together, you probably saw them campaigning heavily in the run up to the Marathon.

One particular story from Marathon day that touched my heart was Johnny Benjamin. Find out more about how he tracked down the man who saved his life and then crossed the finish line with him here.

And this is another awesome article that lists 23 celebrities who have courageously spoken out about their own lived experience of poor mental health in order to shatter the stigma. Choosing at random from the article, Gwyneth Paltrow is one celebrity who has told her story of postnatal depression, a condition that impacts 10-15% of all new mothers.

3) Organisations are already reaping the engagement benefits

And believe it or not, WH Smiths are leading the way on their 225th anniversary (who knew they'd been around that long?!)

This case study from HR Magazine introduces the challenge and the methods. An inspirational read about one of our favourite high street stores.

From a recent conversation with a member of the accounting team at WH Smiths it really struck me how this is an initiative that is positively impacting so many across the business. Whether that's having a more mindful manager, having a personal mission being listened to by the CEO or developing facilitation skills as an in house instructor.

On a related note, I interestingly also spotted the question "How can employers positively support employees with mental health issues?" was the theme of this week's #HRHour twitter conversation. Great to see the topic high on the HR agenda as well as the political one.

4) I heard first hand that this is something employees are craving

On Thursday this week I was invited in to speak with the Text100 London team as part of their wellbeing month. The topic was 'what it means to thrive' and as part of the talk I, pretty nervously, shared my own story of living with depression and anxiety in my early 20s. It was the first time I'd shared this with a bunch of strangers and what happened next took me by surprise.

The honesty and openness of some of the questions during the Q&A was heartwarming. I had multiple people of all different ages, gender, nationality and race coming to thank me, to share their own stories and ask for advice. And the HR team were astonished by the level of sharing that followed the talk.

Before I even started a member of the film team asked me how he could become a Mental Health First Aider!

I left with a sense that the conversation within that organisation was only just beginning. And my hunch, backed by some grounding evidence, tells me this isn't the last lunch and learn I'll be invited to do.

If you're interested in developing your people as Mental Health First Aiders then I'd love to hear from you. Let's keep the mental health conversation flowing.

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