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World Mental Health Day – the case is clear

Louise Aston, Wellbeing at Work Campaign Director, Business in the Community

8 October 2015
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By Louise Aston, Wellbeing at Work Campaign Director, Business in the Community

Awareness days often have very little real meaning or significance, but World Mental Health Day (10th October) is an exception. Mental health is an issue that affects everyone in society, from our friends and family, to children in our classrooms and chief executives in the boardroom. It continues to rise up the list of major social challenges facing communities across the globe.

It is also an area where substantial progress is being made.

Working closely with Forster Communications, Business in the Community is privileged to have played an important role in driving a dramatic shift in the landscape around mental health at work.

Almost two years ago, we published a landmark report outlining the need for businesses to take the lead in breaking down the stigma around mental health: Mental Health: We’re ready to talkThis outlined the growing evidence on the damage and suffering caused by the culture of silence around mental health. It highlighted the need for more businesses to take a public stance on promoting the importance of positive mental wellbeing amongst employees.

We can say with confidence that people are now talking, and change is happening at a faster rate as a result. In April this year we published a One Year On report, showing how 13 multinational organisations have taken steps to promote positive mental wellbeing in their workforces, in conjunction with signing the Time to Change pledge.

In its first year, the campaign has made remarkable progress: the changes implemented have had the potential to impact nearly half a million employees collectively. Since April, we’ve also seen more companies join our Wellbeing at Work campaign, which is hugely encouraging.

We have also hosted the first of a series of events with high profile public figures speaking out about the need for more to be done to promote mental wellbeing on a national scale, including the former Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell.

This week’s World Mental Health Day gives us a chance to reflect on what we’ve achieved and the challenges that lie ahead to eradicate the stigma around mental ill-health once and for all.

Over the past two years, we have seen mental health change from becoming an issue that was considered strictly taboo for businesses, to a subject that requires public commitment from any business that takes its social purpose seriously.

But this is only the start. Lasting change will only come through helping everyone to realise the importance of positive mental wellbeing, and giving people the support and understanding to help themselves and others.

In February, we will be working with Forster Communications to publish a new report looking at the role of line managers in promoting positive employee wellbeing, helping more organisations to consider how they can deliver positive wellbeing support to their staff.

I look forward to reporting back even greater progress on World Mental Health Day next year. In the meantime, please get in touch if you want to join the vanguard of progressive businesses driving this essential agenda forward.

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