In recent years, the issue of mental health has become more openly talked about. By having honest discussions, the UK has started to remove the barriers that made mental health a taboo subject. But we have a long way to go before mental health is talked about in the same way as physical health.
In the workplace, challenges still exist in ensuring employees are fully supported when it comes to mental health.
So, how far has the City come in removing the stigma that is unfairly associated with mental health?
Read more: Smash the stigma around MENtal health
Poor mental health and illness doesn’t discriminate. Like catching a cold, it can happen to any one of us, at any time. Stress, anxiety, and depression are the biggest causes of sickness absence in our society.
In the UK, mental ill health is responsible for 91m working days lost every year, and costs employers £34.9bn each year.
For many individuals, mental ill health impacts not just their working life, but also their relationships with family and friends. By creating a mentally healthy workplace, employers have an opportunity to improve both their bottom line and their employees’ quality of life. There is a financial and moral case for taking action.
Traditionally in the City – with its high-pressure culture – stress, depression, and burnout are often not discussed. There is still resistance to change, and some employees still feel like they are taking a risk when it comes to talking openly about mental health.
However, five years on since the City Mental Health Alliance (CMHA) was launched by senior business leaders from across the financial services sector, we are now beginning to see mental health become a boardroom issue.
Every single employer wants a productive, thriving workforce and to retain the best talent. More organisations are now thinking about how they can better support the wellbeing of their employees. In fact, London’s financial centre is at the forefront of tackling this issue and driving change.
We have already seen the positive impact of initiatives such as the This is Me initiative, demonstrating commitment to dispelling the myths around mental health in the workplace. But more needs to be done.
The CMHA believes that mental health must be a business-critical issue, with key performance indicators and accountability on the board. A key aim of the CMHA is to encourage senior leaders to bring mental health out of the shadows through open discussion.
Last year, our members told us that when leaders talk about their own mental health, it makes a real and positive difference to workplace culture.
When leaders like Lloyds Bank’s chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio talks about experiencing stress, it becomes possible for others to open up about their own mental health, without fear of harming their career prospects.
It is also important for businesses to be aware of the support available to help them create a better workplace.
Workplace training by organisations such as the Samaritans reduce the fear of having difficult conversations with colleagues, and will foster a more supportive working environment.
Employers also need practical guidance. At the CMHA, we recently created a framework of suggested actions for large employers. Our members, including BNY Mellon, Goldman Sachs, and PWC, pooled their knowledge and experience to create this toolkit, which organisations can use to measure their progress when it comes to implementing and refining their own mental health initiatives.
The ideal of having a mentally healthy workplace – with zero tolerance of any stigma – is within our grasp. Tackling the challenges ahead with determination is vital in creating a future where people look out for one another and flourish.