Why Mental Health Needs To Be at the Top of Your Workplace Agenda in 2021

6 Minutes

Earlier this year our podcast host Emily Ramji sat down with Zoe Sinclair, Co-Founder of Thi...

Earlier this year our podcast host Emily Ramji sat down with Zoe Sinclair, Co-Founder of This Can Happen. This Can Happen is a business set up to empower workplace mental health. In this episode, Emily and Zoe discuss why mental health should be a top priority in your workplace. Over the last year, mental health has been spoken about more in our personal and professional lives but continues to be an area in which many people feel ill-equipped. Zoe has been involved in staff engagement for the last 19 years, and more recently she found many companies approaching her asking how to support the mental health of their staff, this was when Zoe was introduced to her now-good friend Jonny Benjamin.

Jonny has suffered from mental health challenges since he was young and unfortunately he got to a point in his life where he couldn’t carry on any longer and attempted to take his own life. A gentleman stopped and approached him, which essentially saved his life. The police were called, and Jonny and the man were separated. Jonny embodied the hope that this man had given him. He got the support he needed and started to use his journey to help others suffering from mental health. Jonny began working with Mental Health UK, who encouraged him to find the man that saved his life, but unfortunately in the hustle and bustle of everything that day he couldn’t remember his name but thought it may have been Mike. This led to Mental Health UK launching a social media campaign to #FindMike, the campaign was a success, and a couple of weeks later, Mike was found, although Mike was actually named Neil! Jonny and Neil’s story has raised the profile of male mental health and they continue to lead high-impact work and campaigns.

As companies approached Zoe to talk about mental health, she pushed Neil and Jonny in their direction to start conversations on the topic. They found many organizations that wanted to make a genuine effort and difference which is why Zoe co-founded This Can Happen. This Can Happen, started as a one-day mental health conference in November 2018, with the idea to bring workplaces together to discuss and understand how to talk about mental health. Zoe was extremely privileged to have Prince William speak at the first conference, he was very much a part of the organization's raw foundations and bought awareness to the press all over the world. The conference makes an effort to define mental health, and what it means. They cover a range of topics, from how our day-to-day lives can affect our mental health, to having a diagnosis of a mental health condition and how that can affect you and your colleagues.

Since 2018, This Can Happen has built on its conference, but due to the pandemic, an in-person conference could not take place. Zoe and her team took the conference online, enabling them to reach a far larger, global audience. This has enriched the conference and they now run programs that any and all workplaces can join, consisting of webinars, networking, and support consultations, throughout the year. Companies often have constraints when trying to support mental health, such as budget or who takes ownership of mental well-being strategies within an organization. Although these issues do not need to be barriers, Zoe shared some tips and states that you can do a huge amount for mental health, without the need for a budget. Facilitating volunteer groups is a great way to bring people together and build bonds which costs very little at all. Creating conversations helps to break down the stigma around mental health and provides an opportunity to find ways to help those that are struggling.

Zoe advised that a way to aid this is to get buy-in from the senior leadership. When a senior leader talks about mental health it helps other employees feel as though they are able to talk about theirs. Having a workplace that supports the mental well-being of their staff is also important for employee attraction at the junior level, it has been proven that Millennials and Gen Z are actively looking for workplaces that have mental health provisions. Covid-19 has raised the profile of mental health on the workplace agenda, but things are not going to change overnight. Companies need to show that they really want to help rather than make mental health a tick-box exercise. Creating a mentally healthy workplace requires great communication between management and staff. It’s important to provide training for both employers and employees on mental health and ensure there is listening on both sides.