Mental Health: Making a Difference in the Workplace

Working full-time makes it challenging for me to dedicate as much time as I’d like to for campaigning about mental health causes – I’m sure a lot of bloggers find themselves in a similar predicament when trying to balance their passions with the day-to-day necessity of going to work and all of life’s other commitments.

I’ve been really lucky recently though as I’ve been able to align my passions more closely with my job at the University of Cambridge in order to try and make a positive difference for colleagues.

Ironically, the effort which I’ve been putting in at work in relation to mental health has led my blog to look a bit bare over the last few weeks. It has been worth it though as it has been really exciting for me to lead on trying to enact real changes to attitudes on mental health in my workplace.

The University of Cambridge does already provide support for staff – which I have used myself when I went through a tough time with my mental health 18 months ago. I also haven’t experienced any discrimination regarding my mental heath during my time with the university. However, it seems obvious to me that, as with the majority of workplaces and society in general, there is a culture in which people still feel uncomfortable in talking and seeking help for their mental health.

My aim in my workplace is to break down this stigma around mental health by encouraging an actively open environment in which staff feel completely safe and supported. I want to share with you as much as I can of what I have been up to and encourage you to take similar steps in your workplace!

It all started when I shared my mental health story with colleagues as part of my fundraising for Mind. It was such a scary thing for me to do but I’m so glad I did. My colleagues were so supportive and helped me raise much more than I expected.

Following on from this, I volunteered to be involved with a working group which was tasked with making recommendations on changes/improvements to the staff experience at work. As a result of this, I put forward a large business case for senior management recommending steps which they should take to improve mental health in the workplace.

I am unable to share this document with you but it was supported by colleagues and I’m hoping that it will kick-start several changes – hopefully leading to an even more open and supportive environment at work. Some of the suggestions I have made include signing the Time to Change employer pledge, nominating employee champions and running mental health events.

I  recommend that if you’re considering making a similar case to your employer you should check out the guidance provided by Time to Change on how to do this. It really helped me!

As if by magic, recently I was invited to run two mental health events at work as part of the University of Cambridge’s Festival of Wellbeing.

I was hugely excited to be asked to do this as it already indicates to me that colleagues are on board with my proposals. Last week I delivered my events after lots of work in the lead up and I’m really pleased with how they went.

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Everybody who attended was incredibly engaged with the topic and I learnt a lot from my colleagues. I’ve been told that they also got a lot out of the sessions and that it has even led to people seeking help who may not have done otherwise.

That is exactly what I wanted to achieve! I am immensely proud that, by speaking out, actively sharing my story and encouraging others, I have helped others to seek support. I hope that by doing so they will be able to manage their mental health in a positive way.

I want to say thank you again to everybody who responded to my questions on Twitter! I hope making it onto the presentation below at the University of Cambridge goes some way towards returning the favour!

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The events were also a great opportunity for me to promote the amazing work of Mind, Time to Change and STOP Suicide.

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These resources are hopefully being circulated all over the university now!

I hope that you’ve enjoyed checking out what I’ve been up to and I hope you might feel inspired to undertake similar work.

This is only the start of what I want to achieve at work and in campaigning for mental health causes in general.

I’m really looking forward to continuing to share with you all of the strides which we can make in tackling stigma and opening up conversations about mental health!

Until next time…

Rob

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