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Why organisations should have a mental health champion

By Caitlin Alborn

Blog

One of our Project Managers, Caitlin Alborn, recently discussed her title as a Mental Health Champion and First Aider with C&IT Magazine. She encourages all businesses alike to recognise the importance of the topic and implement changes to support friends’ and colleagues’ well-being.

I’m a Project Manager for Ashfield Meetings & Events, the largest full service event management agency specialising in healthcare. We deliver over 2500 events globally each year, managing over 140,000 delegates in more than 55 countries. We’ve got plenty to keep us occupied!

Since I joined in January 2018, I quickly recognised that this is a company that makes every effort to ensure its staff feels valued, supported and inspired every day. A recent article published by Mental Health First Aid England indicates that 60% of employees from various industries in the UK, said they would feel more motivated if their employer took action to support their mental health and well-being, so it’s great to feel part of a business that has its people at its heart – particularly as this is an industry recognised as being the fifth most stressful, behind roles in the military or emergency services (CareerCast survey, 2018).

Last summer, I took it upon myself to use the personal development fund at work, Ignition, to contribute towards the cost of a Mental Health Champion qualification. However, I was really pleased when Ashfield chose to fund the additional element of the course, enabling me to qualify as a fully trained Mental Health First Aider.

Mental Health First Aid Champions are essential in creating awareness in the workplace, as well as increasing a general understanding of mental health and challenging stigmas that unfortunately still exist. Work is a huge part of our lives – we spend over 60% of our waking hours at work so creating a happy environment that people look forward to going to every day is vital. As a First Aider, I am passionate about driving and encouraging positive changes within my company, and I aim to build on our values and current culture to ensure that my colleagues feel comfortable in reaching out should they need help. I believe it is a forward-thinking company that addresses mental health in the work place. By implementing Mental Health Champions across the workforce, we are driving the business and supporting our people in the process.

Awareness surrounding mental health and the associated illnesses is such an important subject to cover, so I am delighted to have been given such a valued opportunity at Ashfield. Having this knowledge ensures that we are equipped to design and deliver learning workshops to help raise awareness of some of the most common mental health issues, such as stress, depression and anxiety. If every person in the business is able to identify indicative signs for themselves and their colleagues, we will be able to create a safe and supportive workplace.

Every single person has mental health; some good, some not so good. We all have days where we feel stressed or low but it isn’t something to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Creating awareness around the subject alleviates fear and normalises the subject. As a result, colleagues should feel more comfortable in reaching out and talking openly with their peers. The Mental Health Foundation estimated 40% of days taken off for health reasons are accounted for by mental health issues, yet up to 90% of people feel unable to be honest about their reason for absence. If we can eradicate the stigma within our businesses, we will be able to see a change in these statistics for the better.

Employers have responsibilities for the health and safety of their employees and mental health shouldn’t be treated any differently. Smart employers support employees who are experiencing mental health problems to cope and recover. Fundamentally, the events sector is a people industry and having happy employees, in turn creates a more productive, committed and engaged business.

 

This article was first published on C&IT Magazine's website, here.

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