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Better mental health for all

19 days ago

Paul Feeney

Chief Executive Officer

Covid-19 is affecting our mental health as well as our physical health. Quilter CEO Paul Feeney wants employees to speak out about their vulnerabilities, and shares his own thoughts on how to ‘fight the funk’.

I’m acutely aware of the responsibility our industry has in supporting people’s mental wellbeing. World Mental Health Day serves as a vital reminder of the importance of talking about our problems and supporting one another, especially in these intensely challenging times.

The Resolution Foundation’s intergenerational audit shows that poor mental health is the highest among the youngest adults. Two-in-five 18-29-year-olds reported experiencing higher-than-normal levels of mental health problems in April 2020, 80 per cent higher than 2017-2019 levels. Much of this will be exacerbated by financial concerns leading to feelings of anxiety. As indicated by recent ONS figures, those with limited financial resilience are at greater risk of mental health issues.

When we experience a profound financial shock such as the one many people will be currently living through, those with adequate savings will find themselves in a much stronger position to confront the challenges ahead. But far too few people are in this position, with millions of households having little or nothing set aside to fall back on in a crisis.

As well as helping customers and the wider public to manage their financial safety net, should it be called upon, the industry also has a great deal to do to support its employees.

Thankfully, in recent years many employers have become much more sensitive to their role in supporting mental wellbeing among their staff. Leading companies now take the mental health of their workforce as seriously as their physical health, and I’m proud that at Quilter our Thrive initiative has sent a clear message to our staff that it is ok not the be ok, and that we will support those who are struggling. But we cannot relax and now is the time to re-double efforts to confront the spectre of mental health worries that blight so many of us.

Covid-19 has so dramatically impacted the way in which people work, and many of the changes will likely become permanent, even once this dreadful disease has been defeated. That brings with it opportunities for us to live a more balanced work and home life. But there are also challenges, with some people feeling isolated working from home, and anxious about their career prospects.

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There aren’t any easy answers here, but a spirit of openness and accommodation is going to be the key. If we can say to everyone working in the financial services sector that they don’t always need to put on a brave front, and that it is alright to share your vulnerabilities, then I believe we will develop a better culture in which everyone can thrive.

So as we head into the winter months it’s all the more important for us to step back and take care of our mental health. What do I do to try to fight the funk? Here are four things I’d recommend:  

  • Connect with people. Take the time for no other reason than to connect with them because you want to.
  • Exercise. Whatever exercise means to you, it doesn't matter what exercise you do, it creates endorphins and it makes you feel better.
  • Take the time to get a change of scene. My grandmother used to say there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. So do all you can to get out and get some air. Find a reason to motivate you whether that be a hobby or seeing a friend.
  • Finally, take the time to imagine. If you can imagine it then you can create it. In fact it’s almost impossible to wilfully create something that you have not first imagined. It’s a simple act that has the power to change our circumstances, indeed our lives. Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than experience” and I agree with him.