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Time to change how we talk about mental health

06/08/2018

Paul Hucknall

Human Resources Director

If you’ve rung in to work sick because of a bad cold and needed a couple of days off, your colleagues are likely not to bat an eyelid when you return to work. Call in sick because you are stressed or have severe anxiety, then your return to work can be a very different experience. Some employers may treat you with kid gloves, or worse deride you because ‘you are not up to the job.’

What does this treatment of mental health do? It drives it out of the spotlight. It makes people feel ashamed of the way they are feeling. Ultimately, it means people shy away from telling their employer the truth.

Statistics from the campaign Time to Change show that 95% of employees in the UK who take time off work with stress give a completely different reason for their absence. Add this to the fact that 1 in 4 British workers are affected by conditions like anxiety, depression and stress each year and you realise the true magnitude of the problem that this poses for businesses. Creating a culture where people feel unable to speak about their mental health issues only exacerbates the problem.

For this reason, we want to be part of the solution, not the problem and therefore have signed the Time to Change pledge. The campaign, which has now been signed by over 800 businesses aims to challenge the stigma of mental health problems in the workplace and create an environment where staff are encouraged to talk and listen to each other.

Since Time to Change started in 2007, it has reached millions of people across England and begun to improve attitudes and behaviour towards mental health problems. Its national surveys show that attitudes are improving, up 9.6% between 2008 and 2016 - that's an estimated 4.1m people with improved attitudes.

Our Thrive well-being strategy goes hand in hand with this pledge. This recently implemented programme takes a holistic approach to enhancing four key aspects of health and well-being: physical, financial, social, and emotional and mental health well-being. 

Its purpose is to equip our employees with a range of information, services, and tools to enhance their awareness and personal well-being and mental health. Further to this, the Thrive programme will see the creation of a champions network which will promote and engage people, and help us understand what else they need to create a shift in our culture. 

Getting people talking and giving them tools to encourage open conversations is our key objective. The culture of a company starts at the top and we are currently encouraging our leaders across Quilter to share their own stories and experiences to help remove the barriers and normalise mental health and well-being conversations.

People rarely feel embarrassed by poor physical health; they simply try and find a treatment for the problem. Why should mental health be any different? Moving forward we want to make sure that no employee of ours ever feels embarrassed to discuss their mental health while also making sure the support or treatment is available that someone might need to tackle a mental health issue.